I stumbled across Nanci Hersh’s The Preserve, while browsing through InLiquid’s Artsy page. I like how the subject is not really a dog – just the suggestion of a dog – somewhat flat and without even complete and detailed features, and how that form and idea allows the painter to take many liberties with the color and application of paint. In similar ways, these are the same attributes that make paintings by Manet and Velasquez and Titian really interesting. It’s in those spaces where the illusion comes up against the substance of the paint and the discernible action of the painter, describing the thought processes and decisions of the artist even more so than the painting describes a form. I like how the brushstrokes ostensibly describe water in space, but come up against the side of the canvas and acknowledge that limitation, instead announcing the edge of the painting in a seemingly deliberate conflict with spatial depiction.
I am a big fan of dogs throughout art history. Goya was especially great at surprising his audiences with tiny flurries of brushstrokes with beady eyes and fancy bows. This painting in particular reminds me of Goya’s “The Dog,” also known as “El Perro Semihundido,” or “The Dog Half-Submerged.”
I have several paintings, sculptures, and photographs, mostly given to me by artist friends. A few of the paintings also include patterns or decisive pattern-like brushwork with singular figures or figure-like images. So, I suppose they are not totally unlike this painting. One major difference is that this painting seems to be approximating a real-life sense of color and space more so than the paintings in my house.