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Maud Earl

Biography of Artist

Maud Alice Earl


There can be little doubt that Miss Maud Earl stands out among the many nineteenth century artists who painted portraits of the pure bred dog. She painted in England at a time when many of our present day breeds were being recognized by The Kennel Club, and dog shows were growing rapidly in popularity.

She was an eminent British-American canine painter. Her works are much enjoyed by dog enthusiasts and also accurately record many breeds. Earl was the born in London, the daughter of artist George Earl and his first wife Alice Beaumont Rawlins.

Maud's profession was the continuation of a family tradition. Her father George, her uncle Thomas Earl and her half-brother Percy Earl were also animal painters of note. George Earl, an avid sportsman and noted sporting painter, was his daughter’s first teacher and had his daughter study the anatomy of her subjects, drawing dog, horse and human skeletons to improve her skill. She later said that her father’s instruction had given her ability that set her apart from other dog painters. After her father's tutelage Maud went on to study at Royal Female School of Art (later incorporated into the Central School of Art). Earl exhibited around twelve works at the Royal Academy starting with a stag painting Early Morning in 1884. She also exhibited at the Royal Society of British Artists.

As an artist, Earl painted many of the most important breed specimens of the day, and she is represented in the collections by fifteen original paintings and forty-nine photogravures. 

Maud Earl never used photographs, for she preferred to paint what she saw, rather than what the camera saw. Rather, she posed the canine subject on a sort of portable stool on castors, which made it easy to move about. An attendant usually accompanied the dog, but more often than not, Miss Earl was the one to settle the dog so that he might pose quietly. First she sketched in the general anatomy of the dog with chalks, then set about to capture the animal in oils.

In 1897 Earl had an exhibition in which she showed paintings of 48 different breeds of dog. Earl became famous during the Victorian Era, a time when women were not expected to make their living at painting. Nevertheless, she developed a select clientele, including Royals amongst her patrons such as Queen Victoria and Queen Alexandra.

Maud Earl's early commissions came from the world of dog’s shows and pure bred dogs, but as her reputation continued to grow during the nineteenth century, she came to the notice of Queen Victoria and the royal family. The Queen was a great lover of dogs and dog paintings. At any one time she had as many as 70 dogs at her kennels at Windsor, and the Queen's favourite artists such as Sir Edwin Landseer and Gourlay Steele depicted many of her dogs. Her patronage was not limited to her court artist, however, and indeed Maud Earl was summoned to Windsor to paint her favourite Collie, a breed which Queen Victoria had been instrumental in popularizing. She had often painted dogs belonging to the Prince and Princess of Wales, Albert and Alexandra, the future King and Queen of England.

Maud Earl exhibited consistently at the Royal Academy, and held several one person exhibitions in London, including Canine Celebrities, British Hounds and Gun Dogs and The Power of The Dog. 

It was during this period and up until about 1915 that Maud Earl's work was restricted almost entirely to dogs, and these may be divided into three distinct styles. The first, which is more typical of her work up until about 1900, is of fully finished paintings with a landscape or interior setting such as her portraits of the Totteridge Fox Terriers or the Duchess of Newcastle's Wire Fox Terriers. The second distinguishable style is that used for many of the illustrations for The Power of The Dog as well as for the paintings for the series, The Sportsman's Year completed in 1906. In these, the figures and landscapes are painted in her earlier, highly finished style, but the perimeter of the paintings is left loose and sketchy. In the third type of painting, the background appears to have disappeared almost entirely, except for a few sketchy rendering which either establish the dog in a landscape, or somehow relate to the dog's country of origin. There are several in the collection in this category, including the original paintings for The Terriers and Toys portfolio, such as "A Feast of Fat things," and "Irish Members."

With the onset of World War I Earl moved to America where it had always been well received. She established her studio and residence at the Volney Hotel at 23 East 74th Street, New York and the pure-bred dog fancy quickly took her under their wing and several commissions were almost immediate.

In America Maud Earl's style was to change again, and at this time, so did her subject matter. While continuing to paint dogs, she also created a great number of bird paintings, completed in what she referred to as "in the Chinese style." She exhibited twenty-two paintings in the new style in her exhibition at the Jacques Seligman Galleries on East 51st Street in New York City. Described in the exhibition checklist as a special exhibition of screens and panels, Arts and Decoration of 1928 described them as "entirely Chinese in spirit and at the same time characteristic of her own unique artistry." In effect, they were an extension of her use of negative space seen in the earlier Toys and Terriers and British Hounds and Gun Dogs series. The great difference, however, was in their scale and subject matter. The paintings were almost exclusively large in scale, and several of them were hinged together, making an actual screen. Maud Earl believed that they were one of her most important artistic contributions.

The artist also continued to paint portraits of her beloved dogs, including many belonging to prominent families of the day. Her palette changed, going toward more subdued colours, and colours to which she added a lot of white. " Maud Earl continued to paint beautiful pictures of pure-bred dogs until well into the 1930's. She returned to painting the more traditional oil portraits for which she had become so popular almost fifty years before, and at the time of her death in 1943, she was well-known to dog fanciers and art connoisseurs alike.

Maud Earl left an extraordinary body of work painted over a period of some fifty years. Born into the rigid world of late Victorian England, she stuck out as her ability to establish herself as an extraordinary artist of great talent.

Maud Earl died in New York in 1943 and is buried at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York.