Pup art: Polaroids of William Wegman’s loyal Weimaraners

11 September 2018

London's Huxley-Parlour Gallery is hosting the first UK exhibition of the 20x24-inch Polaroids by American artist William Wegman, best known for his artistic collaboration with his many Weimaraner dogs, who are often seen posing in human clothing.

Left to Right | © William Wegman, courtesy Huxley-Parlour Gallery

In 1979 the Polaroid Corporation invited artist William Wegman to work with their recently developed 20x24 camera, only a handful of which were ever made. Unlike the handheld Polaroid series, these vast, wood-clad cameras created pictures that were 20 inches by 24 inches in size. Other artists who used them included Andy Warhol and Chuck Close.

The dogs are always in a state of becoming something
William Wegman

In this new medium Wegman made some of his first colour photographs, of his dog Man Ray, named after the Dada artist. The curious pooch had already starred in a number of artworks after inserting himself into Wegman's conceptual video pieces.

Wegman used the camera, and a cast of Weimaraners, to explore abstraction, surrealism, cubism and colour theory, working with the camera until 2007, when Polaroid stopped producing film. Man Ray was followed by Fay Ray, and her litter of puppies later became his subjects too. He currently works with brother and sister Flo and Topper. Wegman has described how the breed is naturally good at standing still because they are 'pointers' and so bred to freeze and point to an animal.

Speaking to Great Big Story, Wegman says: "In my photographs what I like people to see is – yes, there is a dog, and yes, it is a Weimaraner – but what has it become? The dogs are always in a state of becoming something. They become characters, objects, when they are lying down they become landscapes."

William Wegman: Polaroids is at Huxley-Parlour Gallery from 26 September to 20 October 2018.

Artist William Wegman with his Weimaraner | Photo credit: ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo
Relapse, 1997 | © William Wegman, courtesy Huxley-Parlour Gallery
Two On, 1991 | © William Wegman, courtesy Huxley-Parlour Gallery
Igor or Ivan, 2001 | © William Wegman, courtesy Huxley-Parlour Gallery
Eyewear II, 1994 | © William Wegman, courtesy Huxley-Parlour Gallery
Dressed from Below, 1994 | © William Wegman, courtesy Huxley-Parlour Gallery

Wegman's Weimaraners

The Weimaraners owned by Wegman are some very famous hounds. They have appeared on children’s TV show Sesame Street, where they have baked bread and enacted popular nursery rhymes, they featured in sketches on Saturday Night Live and the original dog Man Ray joined Wegman on David Letterman.

Hansel and Gretel, 2007 | © William Wegman

The dogs have modelled for campaigns included the Met Opera’s 2007-2008 season, where the Weimaraners appeared as characters from operas including Hansel and Gretel, Lucia di Lammermoor and Macbeth, and for fashion brand Acne, posing with hats, shoes and suits.

They are also the stars of Wegman’s books for children, including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Chip Wants a Dog and 3…2…1…Circus!, where stories are illustrated with photographs of the dogs.

Illuminary, 1993 | © William Wegman, courtesy Huxley-Parlour Gallery

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