Oehme, van Sweden Principal Eric D. Groft attended this compelling April 16 lecture with client and friend Barbara Slifka. Eric and Barbara met Gareth during a tour of the Great Country Homes of Shropshire sponsored by the American Museum in Britain September 2014.
Gareth Williams was riveting as he described the relationship and importance of the canine world to this era of English history and culture. Integral to this lifestyle were not only dogs but the equally important landscape and gardens. Although many people focus on the humans within English portraits, it is the four-legged occupants of these stately pieces that are considered de rigueur members of the countryside retreats. From gaunt greyhounds – shown in early English tapestries – to pampered pooches – whose beds have the same Colefax & Fowler chintz as their mistresses’ sofas – the dogs of country estates command a place in history themselves.
Depictions of hunting dogs and family pets can be found everywhere within English country homes – sculptures, textiles, tapestries, plasterwork, and even on tableware or porcelain. Canine accoutrements include wrought silver and gold collars, dog bowls and architect-designed kennels. Bereft pet owners also would immortalize their pets’ passing with modest gravestones in pet cemeteries or sculpted garden monuments. Be they the dogs of country squires, members of the grand estates’ hunting packs or dogs from the royal households, the illustrated lecture of Gareth Williams – award-winning curator at the Weston Park Foundation – discussed the cultural influence and the artistic legacy of all English country house dogs.
The lecture, House and Hound: Dogs in the English Country House, was sponsored by the Royal Oak Foundation, and was attended by OvS Principal Eric Groft, who accompanied Barbara Slifka to Mr. Williams’ lecture. Prior to joining Weston Park in 2006, Mr. Williams held a curatorial position at Nostell Priory, a National Trust property in Yorkshire. Mr. Williams undertakes consultancy work at other private historic houses, including Blenheim Palace and the aforementioned Weston Park, for which he received an Excellence in Tourism Award for Outstanding Customer Care.