Francis Barlow

Monkeys and Dogs Playing


Francis Barlow ?1626–1704
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1055 × 1320 mm
frame: 1229 × 1525 × 85 mm
Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1989

Display caption

Barlow is the earliest known British-born animal painter. He began a tradition that reached a high point in the work of George Stubbs a century later. During Barlow’s lifetime animal paintings were still largely associated with decorative arts and the interior design of houses. This painting, like many animal pictures, was probably produced to hang over a door. The spaniels shown here may be portraits of particular dogs, so the painting may have been commissioned by their owner. Wealthy families often kept exotic pets as well, and the African monkeys may highlight the patron’s cultivated affluence.

Gallery label, February 2016

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Technique and condition

The support is fairly coarsely woven linen canvas and the oil-bound priming is coloured yellowish-buff. Weave distortion of the canvas threads all around the perimeter (caused when the cloth was stretched up for priming) indicate that the painting has not been reduced in size.

The paint is oil and was applied with small, smooth brushes for the animals and the architecture and with larger, stiffer ones in the landscape. All the darks are semi-translucent, making use of the warm coloured ground lying beneath them. The painting was glue-lined during the nineteenth century. It was cleaned and restored shortly before being acquired.

Rica Jones



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