Dogs in Art: Reinterpreted by Keith Haring

The depiction of dogs in art can be traced back to as early as cave drawings. Dogs have always been a representation of loyalty, companionship, and obedience in art. Pop artist Keith Haring, known for his ability to spread a message through simplistic forms and bright colors, incorporated the dog as a main channel for spreading some of his ideas and beliefs. He moved away from the typical perception society has of the dog and used the loving figure to push people to question what they likely tend to ignore.

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His first use of the dog appeared in his subway drawing series from 1980-1985. Throughout this time, Haring would draw with chalk on matte black paper, and post the drawings over expired subway advertisements. This method allowed Haring to fulfill his intentions of making art accessible and enjoyable for as many people as possible. He refused to title any of the drawings from this series to ensure that each person would create their own interpretation rather than base their reaction off of Haring’s point of view. The subway drawings allowed Haring’s works to become more recognizable, while also subtly driving his social messages.

, short, straight lines indicate sound—for example, the barking dog.

At times Haring depicts the dog standing and combined with a human figure. This particular rendition of the dog speaks to Haring’s caution with those in power, nodding to the often overlooked oppression in society. Using a seemingly playful figure (a standing dog) to reel the viewer in, is a way for Haring to remind viewers to question what they may assume at first glance.

Keith Haring - self portrait

Beyond the quality of seriousness Haring adds to the dog figure, he also depicts the dog in multiple versions, some dancing, laughing, and DJing. To a degree, this versatility mirrors that of Haring himself. He uses the dog, which is known as friendly and loved, to push people to recognize the variability in everyone has, along with the need to question past what can be seen on the surface.

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