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Wed, 18 May 2011
Today my sister and I were taken to the Lady Lever Art Gallery by Peter. It was a fabulous day out and the art, oh wow, wonderful. This is just one of the Pictures... enjoy Dodie xxx t

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This painting shows a poacher and his faithful dog awaiting trial. The dog as a companion in adversity became a subject frequently treated by the artist, for example 'His Only Friend' (1871) at Manchester Art Gallery, Sympathy' (1877) at the Royal Holloway College and 'Companions in Misfortune (1883) at Tate Britain.

'Fidelity' was well received by the critics, although the Times objected to its lack of realism - prisoners are not locked up with their dogs, earthenware jars and loose straw. The Art Journal critic particularly admired the dog:

'very admirable for the expression of sympathy and pity he bestows upon his master; the head is well studied and capitally painted.'

From the Lady Lever Art Gallery.

Fidelity,  Briton- Rivier

Fidelity when personified stands for the secular aspect of Faith, or the trust that exists between a master and servant. In art, Fidelity is often a woman, and is shown holding a golden seal and a key. Fidelity may be shown alone, or may be accompanied by a dog, a symbol of not only faithfulness but also fidelity.

Briton Rivière (14 August 1840 – 1920) was an Irish artist born in London, England.

His father, William Rivière, was for some years drawing-master at Cheltenham College, and afterwards an art teacher at Oxford University. He was educated at Cheltenham College and at Oxford, where he took his degree in 1867. For his art training he was indebted almost entirely to his father, and early in life made for himself a place of importance among the artists of his time.

His first pictures appeared at the British Institution, and in 1857 he exhibited three works at the Royal Academy, but it was not until 1863 that he became a regular contributor to the Academy exhibitions. In that year he was represented by "The Eve of the Spanish Armada", and in 1864 by a "Romeo and Juliet". Subjects of this kind did not, however, attract him long, for in 1865 he began, with a picture of a "Sleeping Deer-hound", a series of paintings of animal-subjects which later occupied him almost exclusively.

He also painted portraits, most notably of his brother in law, Sydney Thompson Dobell, the poet and breeder of deerhounds. A pencil sketch of Sydney Dobell by him is in the National Portrait Gallery. Sydney Dobell's deerhounds appeared in several of his works, notably "The Empty Chair" of 1869. A bloodhound figures in "Requiescat", "The Last of the Garrison" and "Naughty Boy or Compulsory Education" (1909), which was used by Pears Soap in the sequence of promotional pictures begun with Millais' "Bubbles". Early in his career, he made some mark as an illustrator, beginning with Punch. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1878, and R.A. in 1881, and received the degree of DCL at Oxford in 1891. He was only narrowly defeated in the election for President of the Royal Academy in 1896.

See Sir Walter Armstrong, Briton Rivière, R.A; His Life and Work, The Art Annual (1891).

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