Pet portraits that are best in show

Pearl Bugg’s naïve-style canine commissions – plus the odd cat and horse – are delightfully distinctive

Self-taught artist Pearl Bugg has transformed her fascination with the canine world into simply composed but distinctive portraits
Self-taught artist Pearl Bugg has transformed her fascination with the canine world into simply composed but distinctive portraits | Image: Rachael Smith

Pearl Bugg attributes her obsession with painting animals to her rural upbringing in Suffolk. It’s dogs that are often the subject of her characterful portraits, which reflect a fascination with the canine world that most pet owners will relate to. “I have spent a lot of time observing dogs and their funny little characters,” says the self-taught artist. “All of this has led me to develop my own way of looking at, and artistically interpreting, these charming creatures.”

Mr Airedale, acrylic on board
Mr Airedale, acrylic on board
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The results, with their naïve style and simple compositions, are utterly distinctive. “I’m influenced by folk art and primitively styled paintings,” says Bugg, whose very first painting in the 1960s was of a man in a tricorn hat with birds in his hands. “Someone advised me that I should put it in a local sale, and lo and behold, without knowing it was my work, my father-in-law, the antiques dealer Ralph Cox, saw it and bought the picture.” Since then, her work has been a regular sell-out at the Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair, held three times a year in Battersea Park, and at dealers such as Lorfords in Tetbury, Gloucestershire.

A mischievous Boston terrier, acrylic on board
A mischievous Boston terrier, acrylic on board
White and black Lurcher, acrylic on board
White and black Lurcher, acrylic on board

“I paint lots of dogs – all sorts of dogs. And I am always discovering new breeds and finding out what it is that makes their owners so devoted to them. Pigeons are another favourite and I have been known to do owls, cats and even the odd horse.” For private commissions (from £450), Bugg paints from photographs sent by the owner, although she stresses that her style is quite different from traditional forms of dog portrait. “My pictures are my own interpretation of what I see. A look, markings, a stance – they can bring more life to a painting than a photorealistic likeness.” She aims to complete portraits within a four-week time frame.

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