A Highland Breakfast Edwin Henry Landseer Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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A Highland Breakfast is an oil on canvas painting by Edwin Henry Landseer. It’s a historical artwork depicting a young mother suckling her baby and to her right is a group of five dogs feeding from a tub. One of the dogs is also seen feeding her two puppies from her breasts.

The scene of the painting is a cottage depicted by the presence of a cradle and domestic utensils lying. A beam of light passes through the young mother's head and shines on the hounds. Although the hounds are of the terrier breed usually used for hunting, they are seen toiling each other socially with their teeth, depicting their nature and truth during when eating. The nursing mother and child show innocence, a stark contrast to the nature of the other feeding beasts with whom they are in such a peaceful coexistence.

Landseer used the romanticism style, where he combines nature and emotion in his painting to show a certain theme or message. He was a member of the British School of Arts and the majority of his paintings were those of animals including deers, horses and dogs. He drew his inspiration from the Scottish highlands and their nature, which influenced his animal scenes and the moral dimension he attributed to them. One of the major inspirations and influences of Landseer is John Everett Millais, who achieved great success in his career with works such as The Monarch of the Glen; a painting of a deer on a mountain, and The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner; a painting showing a dog mourning its human companion.

The quality of his works delighted the middle class, aristocrats and the Victorian public, where Queen Victoria even commissioned numerous paintings from the artist. He received criticism for tending to humanize his animal subjects to tell a moral point or a sentimental story, and also for some of his works appearing cruel. Through his paintings, Landseer was able to depict the role of animals in the lives of humans, and some important moral and sentimental implications of their interactions. He is seen to explain that both humans and animals share certain emotions and they can co-exist together. His works are also seen to be pushing for animal advocacy at a time where the rights of animals were not as considered as they are now.