We know Valentine Thomas Garland painted from 1868 until at least 1903 because of his exhibition record at the major galleries in cities including not only London (20 works at the Royal Academy), but Birmingham (Royal Society of Artists), Manchester (Manchester City Art Gallery) and Liverpool (Walker Art Gallery). Garland is listed in all the art reference books on his time, and can also be found in Benezit’s “Dictionnaire des Peintres.” He was a gifted artist working in both oil and watercolor depicting genre scenes and animals. A dozen years ago, Christie’s sold one of his paintings for $22,000.
The son of landscape and animal artist Henry Garland (op. 1854-1892), Valentine’s specialty was, fortunately for us, dogs. According to the author of “A Dictionary of Sporting Artists: 1650-1990,” Mary Ann Wingfield, the father was known for his “bags of sentiment,” which played well during the Victorian period. Valentine appears to have inherited not only his father’s talent, but some of his penchant for this sentimentality. William Secord, in his “Dog Painting: 1840-1940,” agrees, noting that “(h)is paintings have a very finished, if sometimes sentimental quality about them and he was quite successful during his lifetime.”
Many of Garland’s subjects display a combination of canine tenderness and loyalty, qualities that certainly stand out in this exceptional painting. It is difficult to decide which of the two dogs commands one’s initial attention. I feel that the two are painted in such a way that they come across as a pair rather than individual dogs; they seem perfectly content as they guard their master’s fur-covered fishing chair. Although the dachshund is smaller, perched above his friend the collie, his intense and soulful expression draws you to this creature. Yet that of the collie is just as human-like. Even the massive chair has its own presence.
However, the incredibly executed detail in not only the in dogs, but in the pieces that make up the bulk of the painting. The dachshund's collar with bell is distinctly seen, and the basket is so well depicted that you can easily see the spaces between the weaves of the rattan. The green-painted wooden fence surrounding the icy scene is full of its own detail, from peeling paint and the shape of the post. In the distance is still another gray fence that offers its interest only because of the way it is painted. In the far background is a pink sky illuminated by a setting sun. The branches of the dormant tree provide a nice silhouette against the whiteness of the snow-filled field and the pink and gold of the sky.
In every way this painting represents Garland at the peak of his observation and talent. The difficulty is not in deciding where to rest one’s eyes in this feast of possibilities, but rather when to move your gaze to something else in this quietly charming, yet masterful painting. It is signed, “Valentine T. Garland” in the lower right corner.
It is housed in a fabulous Victorian wood and gesso frame of the period, although not original to the painting. The frame is composed of open tubular flowers with rounded seed pods coming out from the massive third-dimensional blooms. It is elegant and exudes a presence befitting this work.
I have had the painting professionally cleaned. It is therefore in excellent, ready-to-hang condition. The frame is also in excellent condition.
It measures 12-1/8 inches wide by 16-1/4 inches high, including the frame.