Arrivals & Departures Paws for thought: Pet paintings go on show

Photo of Gemma Nisbet

A new exhibition at Canberra's National Portrait Gallery celebrates the love we have for our furry, feathered and scaled friends.

Plenty of besotted pet owners have considered their animal companion a worthy subject for a great work of art. I once even went so far as to commission a painter friend to immortalise a beloved family dog in oils. 

And now a new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra is celebrating the joy and unconditional love that pets can bring to our lives, and their are packages to help travellers get there and stay.

The Popular Pet Show features more than 160 portraits, including many large-scale paintings, of people and their pets by contemporary artists Nicholas Harding, Lucy Culliton, Darren McDonald, Anna Culliton, Fiona McMonagle, Ken Done, Noel McKenna, Graeme Drendel, Robyn Sweaney, Kristin Headlam, Shen Jiawei, Jude Rae, William Robinson, Janet Dawson and Davida Allen.

Curator Dr Sarah Engledow says she hopes it'll be an exhibition everyone can enjoy, including people who aren't knowledgeable about art.

"All kinds of people with different interests love their pets, and all kinds of people who love their pets can relate in some way to the paintings in this show," she says.

"As a big fan of the internet, I’ve enjoyed my fair share of animal snaps, but I can’t say I’ve learned much from looking at them.

"By contrast, the painted, sculpted and drawn pet animals in this exhibition make congenial guides to random, basic ideas about art.

"Some artists go at their subjects in fervour and some labour over individual hairs. For me, even comparing how much blank space different artists leave around a dog or a bird is interesting. 

"These are all really good artists, but I hope visitors will compare their pictures, appreciate their different approaches, and make up their own minds about what they like best."

The show runs until March 13. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for concessions and free for under 18s. They're available at the gallery or online at

A number of pet-related activities are planned during the exhibition's run, including a Paws for Art day on January 21, when art-lovers are invited to bring their dog for themed activities and treats. 

The Crown Plaza Canberra is offering an Unforgettable Moments package including two adult tickets to the exhibition, two nights of accommodation for two adults and buffet breakfast for two each morning. Book at or phone (02) 6247 8999.

(Lead picture: Dog at dinner table, 2015 by Noel McKenna. Germanos Collection, Sydney. Image supplied by the National Portrait Gallery.)


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