PAUL PEEL, R.C.A.
oil on canvas
14.75 ins x 13.25 ins; 35.6 cms x 31.8 cms
Paul Peel was a child prodigy. With an enthusiasm bordering on zealousness, his father encouraged him to submit his earliest work - his juvenilia - for exhibition at numerous local and regional art fairs and related cultural events. In September 1876, while still in his mid-teens, Peel entered this lot into the London Western Fair. It was among the first works to bring Peel wider public attention. Baker writes that St Bernard, along with a portrait of one of Peel's sisters which he also exhibited at that fair "were universally admired." She continues: "What struck the visitor, according to period reviews, was their naturalism and life-like rendering." Peel won first prize in the amateur class.
St. Bernard "went missing" for more than 130 years until it was brought to the attention of Igor Holubizky at Museum London. The curator notes that the painting was purchased by the current owner from an antique shop in the village of Paradise, Pennsylvania - 80 kilometres west of Philadelphia - which acquired it through a local estate. In 1887 Peel had been accepted to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Holubizky speculates that "a possible scenario is that Peel took the painting with him to Philadelphia, as an example of his work, for academy entrance, and because it was small enough to carry.”
According to a typewritten label on the reverse, this painting “was painted from life and represents the head of his pet dog...”
Victoria Baker, Paul Peel: A Retrospective, 1860-1892 (catalogue), London Regional Art Gallery, London, 1986, page 13.
Private Collection, U.S.A.
London Western Art Fair, September 1876
Hood’s Art Gallery, London, Ontario, April 1877
Paul Peel: A Boy and a Dog, Museum London, 2009