Sir Edwin Landseer
“The Shakespeare of Dogs”
In his heyday, the animal artist Edwin Landseer is hugely celebrated and loved for his dogs and Highland stags; later on, for his lions in Trafalgar Square. He was a child prodigy; aged 5 years old he made a detailed study of a foxhound which astounded everybody; later he becomes known for his vivid and varied textures of animal skin, hair and fur, which he achieves with special brushes, keeping their design a secret. He is a party man, with party tricks; with his left hand he can draw a horse’s head and with his right a stag’s head complete with horns – at the same time!
Most widely appreciated for his dogs, he can paint comic dogs, tragic dogs and in – between dogs, and he becomes known as the Shakespeare of Dogs.
He is socially much in demand with the aristocracy and with Royalty, teaching the Queen and Prince to etch. But after awhile it all gets too exhausting; the celebrated artist feels happier up in the Highlands of Scotland. He ends up stressed, drunk and mad, comparing himself to one of his own hunted stags. Nobody can get him to behave except his neighbour Mrs Pritchard, an elderly widow said to look like “ a very small monkey, with bright blinking eyes and a merry mouth.” When Sir Edwin dies they name a pub after him; they bury him in St Paul’s Cathedral, and someone puts black wreaths around the necks of those lions in Trafalgar Square.