A Toy Spaniel signed and dated 'Geo Cole. 1841' (lower right) oil on canvas 24 3/4 x 29 3/4 in. (63 x 75.5 cm.)
This particularly fine portrait of a Toy Spaniel, a long established breed with Royal connections, is historically important because it could well have been used as a template by which the breed was assessed when dog shows started in the mid 19th century.
George Cole first exhibited in London in 1838. His early work was characterized by experimentation as he explored still life, portraiture, genre, literary and animal subjects in an attempt to establish his true milieu. He would have seen the Old Masters in the country houses that he visited when undertaking commissions for animal portraiture and counted Sir Henry Peel, who probably commissioned the portrait of his Newfoundland dog, as one of his patrons. However by the 1850's Cole turned predominantly to landscape painting, initially in the style of the Old Masters, but soon developed his own unique style. He never entirely abandoned animal portraiture, and as late as 1862, he is recorded as having painted 'Poppetino' and 'Devil', the pet dogs belonging to the aristocratic collector and restorer of Walpole's Strawberry Hill, Frances, Countess of Waldegrave.