Whether featured as symbols of fidelity, devotion, protection, and status, or as the subjects of portraits – some with surprisingly human-like characteristics – dogs have long fascinated artists and collectors. This delightful painting illustrates this affection and shows a graceful Greyhound stretched out on a carpet within a plush and colourful interior.
Ankarcrona created this work towards the end of 1892 when he was part of Konstnärsförbundet, an association of Swedish artists. It is therefore likely that this painting was exhibited in one of the many exhibitions that the association organised the last decade of the century (including in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Uppsala, Copenhagen, Helsinki and Berlin).
Ankarcrona was a Swedish painter and was also known for his early efforts in historical and cultural preservation, especially in Dalarna. His paintings usually focused on rural subject matter and often depicted winter settings.
He began his education at the Per Brahe Secondary School, from 1883–1885. Having shown an interest in and aptitude for art, the painter Georg von Rosen was sufficiently impressed to recommend that he should receive professional art instruction. He also suggested that Germany would be a more suitable place for those studies than Paris. Accordingly, he spent the years 1886 to 1889 at the Academy of Arts, Berlin. From 1889 to 1890, he was in Norway, applying what he had learned. After returning to Berlin, he came under the influence of the Dachau School, which involved a style of painting known as “heimat-kunst” (home art). In 1892, Gustaf Ankarcrona exhibited paintings in Munich and the following year in Berlin. After a few successful years abroad, he came back to Sweden in 1895. He then lived on his brother’s farm in Skåne and, from 1896 to 1901, had a studio in Stockholm where he specialized in portraits. He was appreciated by contemporary artists such as Bruno Liljefors, Carl Larsson and Anders Zorn.
Gustaf’s paintings had a patriotic touch which was much appreciated, he was also widely mentioned for being an excellent horse painter. He painted many landscape motifs with horses and cows.
In 1890, he became a member of the Konstnärsförbundet, a group that stood in opposition to the methods of the Royal Academy, although his views on art were not especially radical. He participated in several of their exhibitions until 1898, when he was excluded for not following the assigned program.
The year 1901 was an important turning point for his career, when he visited Gävle and encountered a group of peasants from Leksand dressed in their native costumes. He was so enthused over what he saw that he immediately planned a trip to the area around Siljan in Dalarna, an area that had long attracted artists of the Düsseldorf School.
Although he came to paint, he soon became more interested in the rapidly disappearing rural culture. Soon, he had put together a large collection of cultural objects and began teaching preservation. He was particularly interested in wood carving and textiles and would often seek out older women who could still weave old patterns to place orders with them.