Sir Edwin Landseer
A Distinguished Member of the Humane Society, 1938, oil on canvas, 111.8 × 143.5 cm, Tate Gallery, London.
The original Distinguished Member of the Humane Society was a stray dog called Bob. Traditionally, the dog had twice been ship-wrecked with his owner. On the first occasion, he brought his master safely to shore, after a two mile swim from the ship-wreck. After the second sinking, he failed to rescue his owner and made way to land on his own.
Bob arrived in London and made his home in dockland. There, he gained a reputation for life-saving and the Humane Society decided to adopt him and award him their gold medal. He was officially credited with twenty-three rescues in his fourteen years of service with the society, but there may well have been others which were not recorded. Bob reached a good age for a Newfoundland, since he must have been at least fifteen at the time of death.
Although Landseer painted “A Distinguished Member of the Humane Society” to commemorate the bravery of this dog, the model for the picture was a white-and-black Newfoundland called Paul Pry and belonging to Landseer’s cousin Mrs Smith.