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The English Cocker Spaniel – Art of Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge

182 – May, 2013

By Debra Lampert-Rudman

“With eye upraised his master’s looks to scan, The joy, the solace, and the aid of man;

The rich man’s guardian, and the poor man’s friend, The only creature faithful to the end.”

George Crabbe 1754-1832

Ward Binks (British, 1880-1950), Solo, Erna & Georgie, 1935, Cocker Spaniels, Gouache on paper, 16 inches in diameter, Framed: 19 inches in diameter, Courtesy The William Secord Gallery, NYC

The quote, above, opens the now-rare book, The English Cocker Spaniel in America, written by Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge and published in 1942. She had just been elected President of the ECS Club that year after more than a decade of importing English Cocker Spaniels from England and developing some of the finest lines of ECS in America. She wrote the book to help define the newly emerging breed’s standard as distinguished from the American Cocker, provide its first illustrated standard and stud book records, as well as provide a place for Stud Cards of burgeoning breeders of true English Cocker type Spaniels.

Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge, born April 3, 1882 an heiress to the Rockefeller fortune and wife of Marcellus Hartley, heir of Remington Arms/Dodge fortunes, was, according to an article by Larry Bataille in Country Roads Magazine, one half of the early 20th century’s “wealthiest couple in the nation” upon their marriage in 1907.

Known as “The First Lady of Dogdom”, Mrs. Dodge is probably best known as founder of the Morris & Essex Dog Show – hailed by newspapers of the day as “the finest outdoor show in the world, a model of its kind.” At its peak in 1939 as many as 50,000 spectators and 4,456 dogs representing 83 breeds flocked to Mrs. Dodge’s Madison, NJ estate to enjoy an extraordinary day of fabulous dogs, fine foods, flowers, and an international “who’s who” of judges, fanciers and exhibitors held on the polo fields of her “Giralda Farms” estate in Madison, NJ. She was founder and benefactor of the St Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, NJ which, upon her death in 1973 at 91 years old, was provided a trust fund for perpetuation of its works.

Ward Binks (British, 1880-1950), The Cocker Society, Etching & aquatint, 11 3/4 x 14 3/4 inches, Framed: 18 ½ x 21 inches Courtesy The William Secord Gallery, NYC

A truly remarkable woman; the first and only woman to have judged Best in Show at Westminster twice, in 1933 and 1940, Mrs. Dodge excelled in breeding top-winning dogs in several breeds. She gained international recognition as an innovative and superior dog breeder of German Shepherds, English Cocker Spaniels, Bloodhounds, Beagles, Golden and Labrador Retrievers and Rottweilers, the latter which she is said to have helped popularize in this country, and had approximately 85 different breeds of dogs since childhood and during her lifetime.

Photo of R. Ward Binks, circa 1935 Courtesy The William Secord Gallery, NYC

R. Ward Binks: Animal Artist to Royalty and the Dog World’s Social Elite

According to the catalog of R. Ward Binks’ work written by William Secord, President of the William Secord Gallery, NYC, “During one of her many visits to England, her eye had been caught by the English Cocker and she immediately purchased three to bring back to America. During 1935 and 1939 she was to import 23 English Cocker Spaniels and her interest in them accelerated.”

While in England, she may also have been exposed to the work of royal artist Reuben Ward Binks. “I am not sure how she found Ward Binks,” William Secord said in a recent interview. “But I assume that there were magazine articles about his work for prominent British dog fanciers.”

Ward Binks (British, 1880-1950) Blackmoor Beacon, 1937, English Cocker Spaniel, Gouache on paper, 12 ½ x 14 ½ inches Framed: 19 x 21 1/4 inches, Courtesy The William Secord Gallery, NYC

In 1931, she commissioned Binks, inviting him to America to live at her home where he painted over 200 portraits of her dogs during a nearly three-year stay, according to a quote in the New York Times by then-President of St. Hubert’s Giralda, Edwin J. Sayres. Sayres went on to say, in the article, that Mrs. Dodge herself had spent five years of her life in Europe.

Many of Binks’ paintings were of her English Cocker Spaniels and used in her stud card ads, as illustrated in a stud ad featuring Ch. Blackmoor Beacon of Giralda and also depicted in the back of The English Cocker Spaniel in America and in Gouache portrait.

In the late 1930s her holiday greeting cards, printed on heavy linen card stock, featured Binks’ portraits. English Cocker Spaniels Ch. Blackmoor Barnabus of Giralda and Ch. Blackmoor Beacon are shown reclining in front of a fire, a man’s slipper resting neatly by his side.

 

Courtesy The William Secord Gallery, NYC

 

Blackmoor Beacon must have been a favorite of Mrs. Dodge’s because he was also portrayed peering out of the ship’s porthole on his voyage from England to the United States.

Stud Card Illustrations from The English Cocker Spaniel in America, 1942

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also featured is a rare watercolor of Ch. Blackmoor Beacon by Binks just recently discovered by William Secord among Mrs. Dodge’s paintings. Other fine Binks’ English Cocker Spaniel portraits are included from 1939.

Ward Binks (British, 1880-1950), Ch. Lanehead Distinction, 1939, Black Cocker Spaniel, Gouache on Paper, 10 3/4 x 12 3/4 inches , Framed: 16 x 18 inches, Courtesy The William Secord Gallery, NYC

First and foremost, Mrs. Dodge loved her dogs. According to Barbara J. Mitnick’s biography of Mrs. Dodge written for the Dodge Foundation, “Every animal she sold she kept in touch with.” Mitnick stated that Giralda’s Kerry was sent to a Florida woman who “failed to care for him.” After being notified that he had become homeless, she sent for him, restored his health from the “bag of bones” he had become, entered him in the 1947 American Spaniel Club show (then held at the hotel Roosevelt in New York City) where 6 1/2 year-old blue roan Ch. Giralda’s Kerry “took all the blue ribbons.” A January 10, 1947 New York Sun article proclaimed Kerry “dominated the breed’s competition” and won Best of Breed in English Cockers judged by G.V. Glebe.

Ward Binks (British, 1880-1950), Giralda Lady Golightly of Ware & Golden Ray of Ware, 1939, Cocker Spaniels, Gouache on paper, 11 5/8 x 14 3/4 inches, Framed: 17x 20 inches, Courtesy The William Secord Gallery, NYC

Another renowned artist who created portraits of her English Cocker Spaniels was Gustav Muss-Arnolt as illustrated in the portrait of “Fuzzie” dated 1922.

Mrs. Dodge was also a fine art aficionado said to have taken weekly buying trips into New York City to visit Graham Gallery where she purchased many dog art works.

In a recent interview with William Secord, he said, “The late Mr. Graham, Snr., is quoted as saying that Mrs. Dodge kept him in business during the Depression – that she came into New York City each week, and that she would be disappointed if he did not have anything for her to buy.”

Largest Estate Auction Ever Handled at Sotheby’s

Eventually amassing what was referred to as “perhaps the finest single collection of ‘animalier’ bronzes in the world today,” in the press release describing the Sotheby Parke Bernet auction houses’ 1975 estate sale of her collections; Mrs. Dodge’s spaniel art included a 13-1/4 inch diameter English Cocker Spaniel Club bronze medallion plaque created by June Harrah in 1942, as well as a 1938 bronze by the artist F.H. Vocke, among many others.

Gustav Muss-Arnolt (American, 1858-1927), Portrait of Fuzzie, Cocker Spaniel, 1922, Oil on canvas, 17 x 20 inches, Signed/dated (lower right), Framed: 25 x 29 inches, Courtesy The William Secord Gallery, NYC

June Harrah, Bronze Medallion, 1942, Courtesy The William Secord Gallery, NYC

Despite Mrs. Dodge’s estate auction being the “largest property ever to be handled by the nation’s leading art auction house”; according to William Secord, many of her artworks were sold at the house sale held at Giralda Farms after she died. “Reports from those who attended make it sound like a rich man’s yard sale,” Secord said. “Everything from linens to books to art works!” The Secord Gallery held an exhibition and sale of many of Mrs. Dodge’s artworks benefitting St Hubert’s Animal Shelter in 2012 and still features several fine examples from both her Bronze and Painting collections in the Gallery. In fact, “An Artistic Legacy”, the Secord Gallery exhibition featuring over 150 articles from Mrs. Dodge’s many animal art collections may be viewed at http://dogpainting.com/search_results.cfm?ExhibDate=20120211

F. H. Vocke (American, 20th C.), Standing Cocker Spaniel, 1938, Bronze, 6 ¼ x 8 x 3 ½ inches

…“The only creature faithful to the end.”

As stated earlier, Mrs. Dodge was a truly remarkable woman; loyal and benevolent to her dogs, her community, and animals in need, beyond measure. Because of “her untiring efforts on behalf of American dogdom,” Mrs. Dodge received the third annual Chappel Kennel Foundation Award, a bronze plaque, at the judges’ luncheon held in Madison Square Garden on the opening day of the 1936 Westminster Dog Show.

In her acceptance speech she remarked that, “(The dog’s) steady rise in public esteem and the increased acknowledgement of his definite part in our complex human relations is encouraging. The dog does not contend, he merely adds his measure to qualities of which this world has never had enough.”

Ward Binks (British, 1880-1950), Don, Tony, Gillie, Pitt Pat, Paddy, Tessie, and Mitze, 1939, English Cocker Spaniels, Gouache on paper, 13 3/8 x 19 3/8 inches, Framed: 20 x 26 inches, Courtesy The William Secord Gallery, NYC

“Loyalty is a favorite word in all our vocabularies. It is a luminous word direct and simple. May we pledge it anew to the cause of those quiet friends who have helped us to interpret and define its meaning.”

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Debi Lampert-Rudman is a Freelance Writer, a Ceramic Artist represented by The William Secord Gallery, and breeds and shows Parti-Color Cocker Spaniels under the Topaz Cockers prefix. A member of the American Spaniel Club, Cocker Spaniel Club of New Jersey, and Board Member, Match Show and Publicity Chair of the Morris & Essex Kennel Club; Debi lives in Pennington, New Jersey with 5 cocker spaniels and her husband, Richard. She may be reached at bonbritany@aol.com 

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Posted by on May 17 2013. Filed under Current Articles, Remembering Our Past?, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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