Home NEWS OF NOTE “Identity & Restraint: Art of the Dog Collar” Exhibition Opens at...

“Identity & Restraint: Art of the Dog Collar” Exhibition Opens at National Sporting Library & Museum

Percival Leonard Rosseau (American, 1859-1937), Leda, 1906, oil on canvas, 57 x 36 1/2 inches, Gift of Harry T. Peters, Jr., On Loan from American Kennel Club
Percival Leonard Rosseau (American, 1859-1937), Leda, 1906, oil on canvas, 57 x 36 1/2 inches, Gift of Harry T. Peters, Jr., On Loan from American Kennel Club

The dog collar is, arguably, the oldest dog furnishing, and its purpose may be described as both one of identity and restraint. Since the domestication of canines, we have forged a strong bond with dogs—from hunting companions to sporting breeds as well as faithful pets. The dog collar is a symbol of the evolving relationship between humans and canines. The variety of styles that have developed over time—among them intimidating spiked metal rings, utilitarian pieces, elaborately jeweled works of art, and leather finery—show how we tamed, bred, claimed, and came to love our dogs.

“Identity & Restraint: Art of the Dog Collar” is an innovative traveling exhibition developed in partnership between the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) and the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog in New York, NY. This remarkable exhibition marries the 17th through 21st-century artwork with almost 70 vintage and antique dog collars from the NSLM’s collection. The largest publicly held holding of its kind, 187 collars were generously donated to the NSLM by Dr. and Mrs. Timothy J. Greenan. Paintings works on paper and sculptures on loan from the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog and American Kennel Club collections help develop an understanding of the collar as both art and object and how its design changed in relation to different dog breeds and their evolving relationship. NSLM Executive Director Elizabeth von Hassell notes, “With shared aspects of our mission statements, bringing our collections together is a natural partnership.”

The exhibition is curated by NSLM’s Deputy Director and George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator Claudia Pfeiffer, who celebrated her 10th anniversary as NSLM’s head curator this year. She edited the exhibition catalogue that accompanies “Identity & Restraint.” Included in it are an essay on the history of the dog collar by Dr. Greenan, who additionally offers his engaging insight as an inveterate collector. An avid sporting art enthusiast, Dr. Greenan noticed trends and purposes in collar designs, which encouraged him to flesh out the collection to reflect his comprehensive understanding of their varied uses. He and his wife Jocelyn donated the collars to the NSLM, along with his extensive research in 2014.

The art descriptions in the exhibition and catalogue are contributed by Adjunct Curator and former Executive Director of the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog Alan Fausel. His life’s work in the field of art, as a professor, as a longtime appraiser on Antiques Roadshow, and, perhaps, most importantly, as a dog owner informs his conversational and engaging approach and enriches the visual experience.

The exhibition is organized to convey the variety of roles that dogs began to play over time and the honing of their breeding for hunting, vermin control, work, sporting pursuits, leisure, and domesticity. The journey begins with lion and bear hunting scenes with snarling mastiffs wearing sharp metal collars. They give way to portraits and dynamic renderings of prized gun dogs, sight and scent hounds, terriers, and representative collars; celebrations of champion show dogs and bloodlines; and, ultimately, the once fierce hunters becoming cherished companions with a multitude of bespoke and jewelry-like collar designs. Cumulatively, the visual survey reveals the multitude of shapes, sizes, and roles dogs have come to play in our world today.

The range of Flemish, Dutch, British, French, German, and American artworks and collars represent several art movements, genres, and time-periods, reinforcing the universal nature of the subject matter. Yet, they also record changing preferences for animal conformation and the establishment of the standards to which breeders aspire today. From the most diminutive works inviting closer contemplation to the scope and grandeur of the largest canvases, each displays a powerful narrative—of survival, of fear, of aggression, of adventure, of whimsy, of recreation, of sentimentality, of pride, and of love.

To commemorate this exciting exhibition, the National Sporting Library & Museum hosted an opening celebration attended by 100 guests earlier this month before its official opening the following day. Guests were greeted in the Library, where the event began with a cocktail hour and introduction by Dr. Timothy Greenan before a viewing of the galleries with the NSLM’s George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator, Claudia Pfeiffer.

A few of the guests in attendance were Dr. Greenan’s spouse, Jocelyn Greenan and family, NSLM Board Vice-Chair Jacqueline B. Mars, Chief Justice John Roberts, NSLM Board Members: Frances Massey Dulaney, Jenny and Robert Irwin, Mary and Don Shockey, and Dana and F. Turner Reuter.

The NSLM is the first venue for “Identity & Restraint: Art of the Dog Collar,” from October 7, 2022–March 26, 2023. It will then travel to the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog in New York City from April 5, 2023–September 4, 2023. The final venue will be Pebble Hill Plantation in Thomasville, Georgia from November 3, 2023–May 3. 2024. Please check each institution’s website for individual opening events and associated programs. This exhibition was made possible at the National Sporting Library & Museum through the generosity of Dr. and Mrs. Timothy J. Greenan, Garth Greenan Gallery, and Mark Anstine and Marianna Lancaster. The NSLM is open Thursday through Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm. For more information, visit www.nationalsporting.org

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