Landseer earned success as a painter of animal subjects, most notably dogs and deer, with a specialty in hunting scenes. He invigorated this cherished British artistic tradition with a brilliantly naturalistic style, borne of his prodigious technical skill, honed through rigorous observation, and intensified and elevated by the study of exemplars such as Peter Paul Rubens (see The Met 1990.75
) and Frans Snyders (The Met 2001.112
). Landseer’s paintings were esteemed by the artistic establishment and noble patrons, including Queen Victoria herself. His popular appeal owed much to his charmingly sympathetic portrayals of beloved pets, but his ambition is most evident in his images of wild animals, which possess a vitality and emotional drama that epitomize his era’s attunement to the natural world. Many of Landseer’s works are set in the Scottish Highlands, a rugged region in northwest Scotland that was immortalized in the nineteenth-century imagination as a place of untamed natural beauty and rustic tradition, most prominently in the novels of Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832). Landseer, a perennial visitor to the Highlands since 1824, was among the first painters to carry forward this Romantic vision in his art. His best paintings present the Highlands, and especially its pastime of deer hunting, as a paradigm of primal qualities: wild splendor juxtaposed with violent death.The Painting:
This painting depicts a deerhound, which were bred to hunt deer by running them down, a method known as coursing or deer stalking. Landseer depicted the dog with great sensitivity, using delicate brushstrokes, while treating the background landscape more freely. The picture may be classed among the small oils on board which served the artist as a means to explore his subjects and hone his technique. The present example is unusual in that it can be directly connected to a more ambitious composition. The same dog appears, nuzzling under the hand of its master, George Gordon, 5th Duke of Gordon (1770–1836), in Scene in the Highlands, with Portraits of the Duchess of Bedford, the Duke of Gordon and Lord Alexander Russell
(see fig. 1 above). This monumental canvas, made near the outset of Landseer’s engagement with the Scottish Highlands, was one of his first aristocratic hunting portraits, and a milestone in his rise to prominence. An infrared reflectogram of A Deerhound
reveals, beneath the paint, a drawing of a woman’s head (fig. 2), which may be that of Georgiana, Duchess of Bedford (1781–1853), sister of the Duke of Gordon, who was one of Landseer’s most loyal patrons and possibly also his mistress.The Subject:
The subject has been identified as various types of dog. The first documented publications call the painting A Deerhound
and date it 1826 (see Dafforne 1875, Monkhouse , and Monkhouse [1879–80]). The picture was exhibited in New York in 1969 as Scottish Lurcher
, and it was bequeathed to The Met in 2018 with this title (see Exhibitions). An undated, and to this point untraced, cutting from an exhibition or sale catalogue affixed to the reverse of the painting’s frame identifies the dog as a greyhound. These multiple identifications are easily explained. The term lurcher refers to a crossbreed of a sighthound, such as a deerhound or greyhound, with another dog type, typically a herding dog or terrier. The characterization of the dog as a lurcher is correct, but it should be noted that the concept of purebreds and pedigrees, and the corresponding notion of crossbreeds, was not common practice until the 1850s. For Landseer and his near contemporaries, the appellation “deerhound” or “greyhound” would have sufficed. The current title accordingly reflects the earliest known designation as A Deerhound
Alison Hokanson 2021
 On Scene in the Highlands
see Richard Ormond, The Monarch of the Glen: Landseer in the Highlands
, exh. cat., National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 2005, pp. 41–46. Ormond (p. 46) reproduces a painting by Landseer of the Duke’s favorite shooting pony, done in oil on board, dated 1825, and approximately the same size as A Deerhound
 Infrared reflectography completed with an OSIRIS InGaAs near-infrared camera with a 6-element, 150mm focal length, f/5.6 - f/45 lens; 900-1700nm spectral response.
 I am grateful to Alan Fausel of the American Kennel Club for his insights into dog breeds.