Posted by: Lisa Hill | June 20, 2016

Dogs in Australian Art (2016, expanded edition), by Steven Miller

Dogs in Australian Art Some of my readers might remember that back in 2012 I reviewed a book which argued that The untold story of Australian art is the story of dogs and how they came to inspire and shape the art of a nation.  Dog lovers have always known this, of course, and naturally we were very pleased to see that at last dogs were being given their proper place in our cultural history.

The book was Dogs in Australian Art by Steven Miller, and I am delighted to report that there is now an expanded edition of this seminal work, published to coincide with an exhibition, ‘Best in Show: Dogs in Australian Art’ at the Orange Regional Gallery. If you’re quick you can still catch this exhibition: it finishes on July 3rd.  Orange is a bit nippy this time of the year so pack your warm winter woollies; there might be snow – but from my experience you can be sure of a warm welcome from the locals.

Miller is head of the Research Library and Archive of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and is also the co-author with Eileen Chanin of the award-winning Degenerates and Perverts  (2005).  (No, not what you think: Degenerates and Perverts is about the 1939 Herald Exhibition of French and British Contemporary Art, a collection of contemporary art which was marooned in Australian during WW2.  It included works by Picasso and Matisse, cheap as chips because of the war, but Australia passed up the opportunity to buy it for reasons that are obvious from the title of the book.  The summary at Wikipedia doesn’t mention if dogs are included in the discussion about this collection.  This may be a flaw in the book.  If I ever get hold of a copy, I will check back here to let you know. )

Anyway, what does the expanded edition of Dogs in Australian Art have that’s new?  Well, there are thirty-one new paintings for a start, bringing the total number of paintings up to 150 and the total number of breeds up to 80.

But still no Australian Silky Terrier, an omission only just forgiveable because there is a page devoted to a work entitled ‘Australian Terrier on a Packing Crate in the Garden’ by Lucien Henry (1850-1896).  Miller says that this painting symbolises parting and loss, not to mention faithfulness and loyalty, which shows you that irony was alive and well in Australian art in 1890 because Henry shortly afterwards abandoned his wife and departed for France with his mistress soon after painting it.  (And promptly died, which you might say served him right).  Notwithstanding the charm of this painting by Henry, I implore Miller to locate a painting of an Australian Silky Terrier because no other dog so perfectly symbolises the love of luxury and territoriality of contemporary Australians.  No, not even the Yorkie featured in a 2004 painting by Neil Evans.  Perhaps in the next edition….

For a taste of the deliciousness of this book, re-read my original review, and have a look at some of the sample pages at Wakefield Press. 

Update 3/7/16 Don’t miss Louise’s report on the Dogs in Art exhibition at the Orange Regional Gallery, on her Strong Belief in Wicker blog!

Author: Steven Miller
Title: Dogs in Australian Art, expanded edition
Publisher: Wakefield, 2016
ISBN: 9781743054086
Source: Kingston Library

Fishpond: Dogs in Australian Art or direct from Wakefield Press.


  1. I was so surprised to see this pop up today. I haven’t read the book (yet) but I have seen the exhibition, and am planning to go back this afternoon and will do a post about it soon(ish). It’s fantastic! Orange is rather nippy indeed this week, with snow predicted on Friday. Rather incredibly my library doesn’t have a copy of the new edition, even though it’s in the same building as the art gallery, so I’ll buy a copy today and will donate it to the library when I’m done with it.


    • Not wanting to discourage anyone from visiting Orange, but I wonder if this exhibition is heading to any other regional centres? I’m not able to travel at the moment due to Aged Parent responsibilities but I can do weekend jaunts and would love to see these paintings in the flesh somewhere not too far from home…


      • I’m not sure if it will be travelling, the website doesn’t mention anything. It would be great if it did, it’s a wonderful exhibition, I’m sure you’d enjoy it. I really enjoyed seeing it again this afternoon.


  2. I wish I could remember who it was who said that the Frontier was ‘good for men and dogs, but hell on women and horses’ – very true, I think. This book sounds like terrific fun! Thank you from another soppy dog lover.


    • Contrary to the ambitions of any cat, books and dogs just go together, don’t they?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Christian Waller made me fall in love with Airedale Terriers. RIP Jonty and Rosie. Still thinking about a new pup….


    • I think I know the painting you mean, is it this one?


      • Yes! The painting is OK but the Airedales are captured just beautifully. It’s really a study of them, in their various typical poses, rather than of the woman.


        • They are lovely dogs. One of my friends had one called Edward Bear, just a pup when I visited for the first time with my first Silkie. It was a cold winter night and we sat catching up on news by the fire drinking red wine, while Topaze snoozed on my lap. Edward Bear came bounding in from adventures outside, and raced up to make friends with Topaze – who opened her eyes to find his huge nose right in front of her terrified face and she opened up wide and snapped at it. Poor Edward Bear, he got such a shock!


  4. […] dogs.  Steven Miller’s Dogs in Australian Art is one of my favourite art books of all time.  See my review about this one, and if you haven’t bought a copy of this for a dog-lovin’ friend yet, […]


  5. […] Call of the Wild to evolve into a preference for non-fiction texts such as Steven Miller’s Dogs in Australian Art which traces the long-neglected pivotal role of dogs in Australia’s history and cultural […]


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