LOUIS AGASSIZ FUERTES (AMERICAN, 1874-1927) The Pointer
LOUIS AGASSIZ FUERTES (AMERICAN, 1874-1927)
Original watercolor prepared for The Book of Dogs: An Intimate Study of Mankind’s
Best Friend. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 1919.
Watercolor and gouache on board
Board size:8 1/2 x 13 in.
Fuertes described the pointer: “So far we have spoken of dogs which when used for hunting purposes are usually supposed to catch and kill the game which they follow. We now come to a class of hunting dogs which are not expected to kill the game, but to help their masters to kill it, or to retrieve it after it has been killed.
In the very front ranks stand the pointer and the setters—English, Irish, and Gordon—and which is the best is largely a matter of individual taste. The chief duty of each is to scent out the game (usually such birds as partridge, grouse, and quail), and, when near enough, point out to the gunner the spot where it lies concealed. As the hunter approaches, the birds rise and are shot on the wing. Very often the dogs are trained to pick up and bring in the game after it is shot.
The pointer, as the illustration shows, is smooth coated, and his name suggests his business.
This most popular of upland hunting-dogs has undergone many changes in standard as to size, conformation, and color. But certainly no “strain” has been more successful, nor stamped its virtues more generally upon following generations of pointers, than the famous “graphic” pointers of 20 years ago, and it is one of the best of these that was used as a model.
The working pointer should be a lean, hardlimbed, and well-muscled dog of about 60 pounds weight, though 10 pounds either way would meet the preferences of different fanciers. He must be keen of eye and nose, obedient, teachable, and staunch. Many otherwise fine pointers lack the courage of their convictions, and it is easy to spoil a good dog either by too gentle or too rough handling.
Colors are legion; white should predominate, with liver, lemon, or black distributed in almost any fashion, according to taste. No finer upland bird-dog exists, and his endurance and energy are things to marvel at.
As in all working dogs, the “tools of his trade” must be right. Soft, spready feet, weak legs or back, small or “snipy” nose are all vital defects. The head is shaped very like that of a setter, but should be wider across the ears. A good, square profile is essential, with a well-defined stop. The tail, strong and full at the base, should taper rapidly and be as straight as possible.
The breed is so popular and so widely used that there is little difficulty in getting wellbalanced pointers. The continental “pointing griffon” is a type of growing popularity, with little to commend it above the better-known field-dogs except its novelty. It may be described as a wire-haired pointer, whose coat is rough and quite long, particularly over the eyes and on the muzzle. It has a terrier-like expression that is rather prejudicial to the impression it makes upon one familiar with the frank, loyal look of a setter or pointer.”
Original watercolors prepared by Louis Agassiz Fuertes for The Book of Dogs: An Intimate Study of Mankind’s Best Friend. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 1919.
Fuertes’ intention was plainly laid out in the introduction to this beautifully illustrated work. Writing, “The dog is a species without known beginning, and of all man’s dependent animals the most variable in size, form, coat, and color.…The illustrator’s problem in preparing this series was not the production of a ‘standard of perfection’ of the various “breeds” of dogs. It was to give, as far as possible, the proper appearance of acceptable types that have been dignified by a name, and to show in what way they are entitled to the friendship and care and companionship of man. Let it not be thought that it was an easy task, nor that had time, opportunity, early concentration, and a larger acquaintance with the field been part of the artist’s equipment, the result would not have been far more satisfactory to the reader and to him… If these pictures it has been less his notion to establish types and a pictorial standard than to show the “man on the street” the general appearance and the special reason for being of the seventy- odd “kinds” of dogs that seemed to the editor and the artist best included in such an exposition as this. There are, of course, other recognized varieties of dogs, but those shown are the kinds best known.”
Fuertes relied on readily available titles such as Leighton’s “Book of the Dog” and Watson’s “Dog Book” (first 2 vol. ed.) to “Field and Fancy,’’ and to the illustrated supplements to “Our Dogs,” as well as photographs provided to him from various kennels and helpful men and women known to him. From which he created these charming canine illustrations.