27th September – 3rd December 2004
The Kennel Club Art Gallery has now opened its fourth temporary exhibition, entitled; ‘The Borzoi in Art.’ This exhibition offers a unique insight into the Borzoi and how the breed has been depicted in art throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
The exhibition includes paintings, bronzes and porcelain, many of which have never previously been available for public viewing. Artists included in the exhibition range from the 19th century artist John Emms to the contemporary work of Sheena McCall. Visitors are given the opportunity to delve deeper into the extraordinary history of this wonderful breed through a selection of photographs, postcards and a touch screen database.
The literal meaning of the word Borzoi is swift, light and agile and the history of this breed is closely linked with the history of its country of origin - Russia. The Borzoi was an exclusive breed in pre-war Russia and only the aristocracy and the Tsar were allowed to keep them.
Consequently there were few kennels but the kennels that did exist were state of the art for the period, with little or no regard to cost.
As part of the exhibition, the Kennel Club has been given the unique opportunity to include items relating to the Russian village and estate of Perchino. Many of the kennels kept by the Russian aristocracy were destroyed after the serfs - the slaves responsible for their upkeep - were set free in 1861. The presence of the Borzoi in Russia was only saved by the introduction of the "Imperial Association for the propagation of hounds and the regulation of hunting" in 1873, the year that the Kennel Club was in fact founded.
Following the establishment of this association the Grand Duke Nikolai Nickolaivitch founded the Perchino kennel in 1887 after purchasing the estate close to the small village with the same name. This kennel became world famous and with almost 300 dogs it was thought that no other Borzoi hunt in the whole of Russia ever existed on such a scale.
Perchino was demolished during the Russian Revolution in 1917 and all of the dogs were killed, due to their strong link with the Russian aristocracy. It remained a forbidden place until 1992 when the first group of visitors, Russian or foreign, were able to travel there. The exhibition includes photographs and a first person account recording this significant visit.
These exceptional items will give visitors the exclusive story of a kennel that became celebrated not only in Russia, but also in the entire world.
Along with the Russian aristocracy, the Borzoi also has historical links with the Royal family in England. Both Queen Victoria and Princess Alexandra received the first Borzoi to be brought to England in 1863, which were gifts from the Tsar.
The Tsar also exported sixteen Borzoi to be exhibited at Crufts in 1892. After the show they were sold and the best dog – Oudar - was sold to Kathleen, the Duchess of Newcastle for a reputed £200! The Duchess, who already had a love for Borzoi, went on to establish one of the greatest Borzoi kennels in England. Visitors to the exhibition will have an opportunity to view a portrait of the Duchess’ famous dogs. Painted by John Emms, the portrait includes Oudar.
Along with the paintings and sculptures the exhibition also includes extraordinary items that show how the Borzoi has been used in the decoration of objects d’art over the years. These items include a silver crumb set, a cigarette case and even painted snuff bottles.
The exhibition can be regarded as the country’s largest public collection of works depicting the Borzoi in art over the last two centuries. A catalogue is available for visitors to purchase.