Give Yourself the Gift of a Portrait of All the Dogs from Your Life

More than a decade ago, when I was still living year-round in East Hampton, I discovered a dog portraitist of uncanny skill. Her name was Carol Saxe and working only from photographs, she was able to capture the distinctive essence of every dog she put into a painting — many of which were single portraits. I went to her studio to admire her work and happened upon a painting she was doing for a family that wanted a portrait in which they could see all the Corgis they had ever owned — even from the parent’s own childhoods. It sound like something Queen Elizabeth might want!

In this case, the people commissioning the portrait asked that all the dogs be placed as if they were alive at the same time — and put them at their current beach front house, which was a delightful background with a wide porch on a shingled house, overlooking dunes with beach grass and a wide beach below. Carol had painted this setting from a series of photos that were clipped to her easel, along with old photos and newer ones of the 8 or 10 dogs. She had gathered all the dogs of this family’s life into their current life and placed the Corgis judiciously around the property, some on a chair or bench, others under an umbrella, others playing with each other.

What I noticed straight away was that each of these Corgis looked subtly different from the others. None of them was a generic Corgi — each had his own coloring, tilt of their head, and expression: they were clearly each distinctive portraits. I wanted something just like that myself and decided on the spot to give it to myself as a gift — a way to look back on the many different dogs who had graced my life, from the several generations of Bedlington Terriers that began in my childhood, to the Golden Retriever Roma and her sidekick Cocker Spaniel Amalfi, to Yogi Bear the rescued Rottweiler and the series of rescued Weimaraners who followed Lulu and Billy Blue.

Here’s that portrait (above) and another more impressionistic one she did of my two Weimaraner boys, Teddy and Billy Blue, along with Yogi Bear the Rottie — a wonderful triumvirate of big boys sadly long gone, but whom I can still gaze upon lovingly every day.

Tracie Dogs, 3

—Tracie Hotchner
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