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S. T. Gill (STG) ~ 7. Gill’s Newfoundland Dog


Episodes: 1. The Controversy | 2. Why is the Sun Shining from the South? (Hindley Street) | 3. Alibis and Mystery | 4. Sunshine and Dating (Rundle Street) | 5. 10 August 1844 | 6. Are They Still Following Me? | 7. Gill’s Newfoundland Dog | 8. A Mystery of Provenance | 9. Man Dead! News Murdered!! | 10. More to Reveal … 




Not just a Sentimental Look


As you read, you may like to keep open my Trove list: - S. T. Gill (STG) ~ 7. Gill’s Newfoundland Dog. It includes links to references, including the newspapers, paintings and this page.


It is widely recognized that STG loved dogs – one only has to look at his paintings.


In March 1850, someone poisoned his beloved dog and he placed an advertisement in an attempt to find the perpetrator.



The Newfoundland dog was widely respected as a rescuer of drowning people. Paris imported ten of the breed to protect the banks of the Seine in 1845. £5 was probably the price for this popular and expensive dog.


The Adelaide Times lent its moral support:


Wanton Cruelty.—Some outrageous brute or other has poisoned the fine Newfoundland dog, so long the property of Mr Samuel Gill, the artist. Mr Gill offers a reward of £5 for the discovery of the perpetrator, and we sincerely hope he may be brought to justice.


This episode is more than a sentimental look at STG and dogs – it will reveal a little of his art and his artistic influence. I will further risk little by guessing the name of this dog!


Dog Trouble


Ten months before the poisoning, in May 1849, Mrs Samuel Stocks suffered a fractured thigh after being knocked down by a large Newfoundland dog while walking up Hindley-street. Then the following week, STG’s Newfoundland was implicated in another incident. This saw him in Police Court.


Samuel Thomas Gill, artist, appeared on the information of Mr Moorhouse, protector of Aboriginal natives, for being the owner of a ferocious dog which bit a native woman [Ngungu Ngammin] in Hindley-street on the previous evening, whereby the defendant was liable to a penalty of not more than 10s.

Defendant pleaded not guilty, and said the dog which committed the outrage, did not belong to him.


Incidentally, Gill had some time earlier painted Matthew Moorhouse’s North Adelaide residence. The case was unexpectedly long and included a recess. The magistrate hinted a contempt charge against a witness, Harry Figg. Figg eventually relented and identified the suspect Newfoundland as belonging not to Gill, but to “Messrs Disher and Milne, of Hindley-street.” The case was then dismissed.


All the reports identified the breed as a Newfoundland, but the South Australian Register further identified it: “It was a white and black Newfoundland dog.” Not black and white; white and black.


Before returning to the Newfoundland, here’s a quick look at some contemporary breeds.




An 1830 advertisement for copperplate prints suggested popular breeds of dogs– at least as the subject of English paintings – beagles, stag hounds, fox hounds, bull dog, setter, pugs, Alpine mastiff, don, fly, Spanish pointer, pointer, shepherd's dog harrier, Irish greyhound, Greenland dog, dalmatian, spaniel, southern hound, mastiff, blood hound, greyhound and Newfoundland.


Australia of course had the native dog or dingo. And all sorts of crossbreds would have been common.


Using @wragge Tim Sherratt’s QueryPic, here is a chart of some dog breeds prevalent in the newspapers 1829-1850. Kangaroo dog is said to be another name for a greyhound. So as not to count a ship called Greyhound, I excluded “shipping” articles for it! I had hoped it may be an approximation to the popularity of dog breeds (or their names.) You may do better. (You will see the graph more clearly, with supporting data, if you follow the link in my Trove list. You can even make your own graph in QueryPic.)



When is a Newfoundland not a Newfoundland?


Now back to the Newfoundland. In S.T. Gill & his Audiences, Sasha Grishin writes that in the painting November,

"one of these dogs is a young Newfoundland pup, who also appears in the illustration for August. One could speculate that it was the artist's dog, who made an appearance in some of Gill's other South Australian work."

However, this black and brown dog painted in the early 1840s is not his white and black Newfoundland.


Although modern Newfoundlands are often black or brown, we know STG’s was white and black. And the most obvious portrayal of one is in the 1850 painting of Prospect House. There it sits loyally guarding his artist’s portfolio. The timing of this work is poignant. Did STG paint it in January 1850 just before his dog was poisoned? It is more likely to be a tribute to his deceased canine companion. And how better to make such tribute than in one of Gill’s major works.


Now that we recognise STG’s Newfoundland, we can also spot him in another major piece – the 1844 departure of Sturt’s expedition. There we find a very well behaved white and black Newfoundland joining in society’s procession – certainly not a dog that would bail up people in the street! (I considered this painting in some detail in Episode 5.) He makes another appearance in “Hindley Street, Adelaide, looking east” of 1845.




So when is a Newfoundland not a Newfoundland? When it is a Landseer. Named after the famous English artist Edwin Henry Landseer, “the name Landseer came to be the official name for the variety of Newfoundland dog that, rather than being black or mostly black, features a mix of both black and white.”


One of his best known and loved paintings was “A Distinguished Member of the Humane Society”, first exhibited in 1838 in London. This is around the same time STG was said to be training in London. One cannot help thinking the young Gill was influenced by this and other Landseer paintings. And just perhaps, STG called his own Newfoundland dog, “Landseer”.



Sir Edwin Henry Landseer

A Distinguished Member of the Humane Society exhibited 1838

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported) 



COMING SOON – episodes on Provenance and Patronage.



David Coombe, 31 August 2016.



  8. A Mystery of Provenance



CITE THIS: David Coombe, 2016, S. T. Gill (STG) ~ 7. Gill’s Newfoundland Dog, accessed dd mmm yyyy, <>


or CITE THIS: David Coombe, 2016, S. T. Gill (STG), accessed dd mmm yyyy, <>


31/8/2016 (original), 17/10/2016 (updated)