This is an unusual animal study for Elizabeth Blackadder who is well known for painting her own cats sleeping, playing or just resting. It is a formal portrait and the dog is standing to attention. The title below the etching reinforces this formality with its neat incised and print-scripted lettering, unlike the artist's habitual flowing and elegant joined up italics that we can see in her signature. With the combination of the engraving style and the animal's pose, Elizabeth alludes to the tradition of conventional portraits of prizewinning animals, mostly horses, which were intended to display their superior physical attributes.
Elizabeth has indeed captured the greyhound's fine proportions and its characteristic slender body, its deep rib cage and taut muscles. We sense that she has enjoyed the hatchings and etching marks which are ideally suited for such detailed anatomical observation, from the animal's finely drawn toes to the tip of its ears. However the decorum of the pose contrasts with the artist's representation of the dog's face. There is deep sadness in its eye which is emphasised by the turned down corner of its mouth. The dog's expression is compelling and suggests the hard life of the prizewinning greyhounds. Elizabeth has relinquished momentarily the free style of her watercolour brushes to make a convincing social comment.
Elizabeth Blackadder was born in Falkirk in 1931. She is today one of Britain's most renowned artists and was the first woman to be elected as a member of the Royal Scottish Academy as well as the Royal Academy. She paints in oil and watercolours and has worked with printmakers on a variety of printing techniques. Her sensitivity to her surroundings has inspired many still lives, as well as many portraits of her cats, where she captures the paraphernalia around her studio and her domestic interior in compositions tending towards the abstract. The objects featured in her paintings are often those she collected during her many travels in Europe and in the East. The space between objects and their resonance with each other hold a great fascination for her.
Philip Long Elizabeth Blackadder, National Galleries of Scotland, 2011.