Talks

The Twenty-Fifth Lewis Walpole Library Lecture | What are dogs doing in eighteenth-century British art?

Free admission

Thomas W. Laqueur, Helen Fawcett Distinguished Professor of History, Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley

About this program

Laqueur will be speaking about the ways in which dogs mediate human sociability and more specifically about how they function formally in art to bind together the various elements — human and material — of an image. He will discuss images of dogs in the studies of scholars, like portrait of Walpole and his dog in the Library at Strawberry Hill, and move on to a discussion of the various contexts in which it might be understood: from the paintings of Carpaccio and Rubens to the eighteenth century and beyond; dogs in eighteenth-century British art from Hogarth’s “Self Portrait” to the many family scenes of the period; and then more generally dogs in art as they constitute part of a symbolic system–world making and critical in our social cognition. A short coda on interpreting Balak, the most famous dog in Hebrew literature, in the Isreali Nobel Prize winning novelist Shmuel Yosef Agnon’s greatest novel — Only Yesterday — will get us back to Walpole in his study and the question the lecture poses: what are all those dogs doing in eighteenth-century British art?

About Thomas W. Lacqueur

Laqueur is Helen Fawcett Distinguished Professor of History, Emeritus at UC Berkeley. He has written on the history of sexuality, of death and commemoration, of religion, and of human rights and humanitarianism.  His most recent book is The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains. Laqueur is a regular contributor to the London Review of Books, The Three Penny Review and other journals. He is currently writing a series of essays each organized around what dogs are doing in canonical works of art by among others Giotto, Piero di Cosimo, Titian, Durer, Veronese, Valasquez, and Goya among others as well around other images and artifacts — paw prints on Babylonian cuneiform tiles and Neolithic rock painting. 

The Lewis Walpole Library Lecture is presented in New Haven by a visiting scholar on a topic relevant to eighteenth-century studies. 

Top image
John Giles Eccardt, Portrait of Sir Robert Walpole and Catherine Shorter (detail), ca. 1754, oil on canvas, Lewis Walpole Library