Well thank goodness for the Independent and its Great Works column otherwise we rubes at the Daily Dachshund and Dog News would be at a complete loss about how to explain the significance of this particular piece of wiener dog artwork by Giacomo Balla, who we’d never even heard of before.
Balla takes the kind of subject that Impressionism had specialised in, a street scene with bourgeois promenaders, but he picks out only a single detail, an almost randomly chosen clip, and makes it the focus of the whole picture.
This is partly what makes this painting a comical work: a trivial subject is made into the main event. The title itself is bathetic. Dynamism, with its connotations of heroism, of the mighty modern machine world, is set against Dog. (Of course, the Italian doesn’t have that neat double D: Dinamismo di un Cane al Guinzaglio.) And what a dog! It’s nothing else than a dachshund, the twee prim sausage dog with its famously low clearance.
And then there’s the way the close-up is cropped. Balla anticipates Tom and Jerry. The dog’s lady owner is given the same framing as the maid in the cartoon, who never appears in full body, only her stomping slippered feet. Or rather, that is a feature of the earlier, better-drawn, classic episodes of Tom and Jerry – and as there, so here. We get a ground-level perspective, the dog’s view of the world. We get the human world reduced, cut off at the knee.
There’s also something funny about Balla’s treatment of motion. You might be inclined to say that Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash does a painted version of chronophotography, but that’s not quite right. The dog and lady may be meant to be moving, but the way they’re depicted, it’s more as if they’re moving on the spot.
The exam will take place Monday at nine sharp.