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The Dog Was a Later Addition


WHAT do you see when you first glance at this painting? Perhaps the boats sleepily making their way home catch your eye. Maybe you like the delicate trees or do you wonder about the two people sitting in the background? They could be resting at the end of a busy day, gazing at the water and enjoying the last of the sun.

I'm sure you agree, there is a serene, really contented feeling about ``Mortlake Terrace,'' painted over 160 years ago.

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There is a true, funny, and most unusual story about the picture.

It's possible your favorite thing about ``Mortlake Terrace'' may be the dog standing on the parapet near the center. (What breed of dog does he appear to be? He's so far away it's hard to tell.)

If ``Mortlake Terrace'' was a play instead of a painting, the dog would appear in the second act, for he was added after the artist, J.M.W. Turner, had completed the work.

One day when the artist was out to lunch, a friend stopped by Turner's studio at the Royal Academy of Art. The friend was Edwin Landseer, a noted animal painter. When Landseer noticed the painting of ``Mortlake Terrace,'' he felt it needed an accent in the center. He proceeded to cut a little dog out of paper and simply stuck it on the canvas.

Do you think Turner was upset? Do you think he tore the paper dog away and stomped around the studio throwing brushes about? No, not at all. In fact, when he returned from his lunch hour, he didn't say a word, but adjusted the cut-out dog perfectly. He carefully varnished the paper dog, leaving it in place, and then set about painting it. Turner immediately knew the composition of the painting was greatly improved by Landseer's imaginative touch.

The collaboration was surely a good one, for what do you suppose? The little paper cut-out dog is considered an important part of the painting, and is still there today.

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