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  • Edwin Henry Landseer
    Mar 7, 1802 - Oct 1, 1873
  • Eos - Sir Edwin Henry Landseer was an English painter, well known for his paintings of animals - particularly horses, dogs and stags. The best known of Landseer's works. He was a notable figure in 19th century British art, and his works can be found in Tate Britain, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Kenwood House and the Wallace Collection in London. He also collaborated with fellow painter Frederick Richard Lee.
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  • Edwin Henry Landseer
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  • 1841
    Oil on canvas
    Windsor Castle, Royal Collection.

    Prince Albert's favourite greyhound bitch, Eos, stands poised and alert, guarding her master's possessions – his leather gloves, top hat and ivory-topped cane. A deerskin footstool with hoof feet symbolises the Prince's sporting interests. The shimmering black beaver fur of the top hat echoes the gleam of the dog's coat, and both provide a dramatic contrast against the scarlet tablecloth. Through the inclusion of such personal items, the painting almost serves as a portrait of the absent Prince himself. Greyhounds are a breed traditionally associated with court life, and Landseer's portrait tacitly alludes to earlier pictures such as Titian's Charles V with his Dog (Prado, Madrid) and Van Dyck's James Stuart, Duke of Richmond and Lennox (New York, Metropolitan Museum).

    Eos accompanied her master when he arrived in England in 1840 to be married to Queen Victoria. In an early letter to his future wife, Prince Albert provides a colourful character study of the animal (Jagow 1938, p. 46):

    'You ask after…my faithful, but not disinterested Eos. She is very well, looks after herself as much as she can, sleeps by the stove, is very friendly if there is plum-cake in the room, very much put out when she has to jump over the stick, keen on hunting, sleepy after it, always proud and contemptuous of other dogs'.

    Landseer is said to have borrowed the hat and gloves without Prince Albert's knowledge, which caused some panic amongst his personal servants when the Prince decided to go out and they were not to be found. Evidently the secrecy was a success - Queen Victoria wrote on Christmas Eve, 'Amongst my presents to him was a large life size picture of "Eos" by Landseer, with which he was quite delighted, & it came as a complete surprise' (Journal, 24 December, 1841). The painting was hung in the Prince's Dressing Room at Buckingham Palace.

    When Eos died in 1844, Queen Victoria wrote of her husband's distress noting that 'she had been his constant and faithful companion for 10.5 years and she was only 6 months old when he first had her. She was connected with the happiest years of his life…' (Journal, 31 July, 1844). Landseer's portrait was used as the basis for two bronze memorial statues (RCIN 98163 and 41483) standing in Windsor Home Park and at Osborne, which were modelled by the Prince himself in collaboration with the sculptor John Francis.

    Eos was one of the dogs portrayed on the silver-gilt centrepiece designed by Prince Albert.

    Text adapted from Victoria and Albert: Art & Love, London, 2010

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Other paintings by Edwin Henry Landseer:

'Lion', a Newfoundland Dog
'Lion', a Newfoundland Dog
A Scene at Abbotsford
A Scene at Abbotsford
The Old Shepherd's Chief Mourner
The Old Shepherd's Chief Mourner
A Boy and Two Greyhounds Resting
A Boy and Two Greyhounds Resting
Edwin Henry LandseerLandseer was born at 71 Queen Anne Street East (afterwards 33 Foley Street), London, on March 7th 1802. Landseer was a brilliant animal painter whose oil paintings had added appeal in the Victorian age because of his tendency to give his animal scenes a moral dimension. These Landseer paintings were widely circulated in his time in the form of engravings, often made by his brother Thomas. Edwin Landseer was the youngest son of an engraver. The three Landseer brothers studied under Benjamin Robert Haydon, the historical painter, from 1815. Haydon encouraged Landseer to study animal anatomy. In 1816, Landseer entered the Royal Academy Schools, but he had already exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in the previous year. Landseer was elected Associate of the Royal Academy in 1826 aged only twenty four, and full Academician in 1831 when not yet thirty.

In 1824 Landseer made the first of many visits to Scotland. Landseer fell in love with the Highlands, which inspired many of his later paintings such as “The Monarch of the Glen” (Royal Academy 1851, John Dewar & Sons Limited). Landseer also visited Sir Walter Scott, who admired his paintings and chose him as one of the illustrators to the Waverley edition of his novels. In the 1830s Landseer paintings gained wide popularity and was bought both by the aristocracy and the newly important middle class. Landseer himself moved freely in aristocratic circles, and after 1836 he enjoyed royal patronage, especially in the 1840s when Victoria and Albert also discovered Scotland. Landseer paid his first visit to their home, Balmoral in 1850 to paint a large group portrait painting of the royal family. Landseer was knighted that year even though the painting was never finished.

After a breakdown in 1840, partly caused by the failure of the royal portrait, Landseer had a permanent fight against depression and ill health, although Landseer continued to paint brilliantly almost until the end of his life. In the 1860s Landseer modelled the lions at the base of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square and these were unveiled in 1867. In 1866 Landseer declined the presidency of the Royal Academy, and after 1870 sank slowly into madness. A major exhibition of Landseer paintings was held at the Tate Gallery in 1981, organised by Richard Ormond.