Morland's scarce image Dancing Dogs is a charming outdoor English Georgian scene, depicting a family entertained by dancing dogs which are dressed in elaborate clothing and hats. The dog master puts his canine performers through their paces to the musical accompaniment of a strolling player on the bagpipes.
Itinerant players were a common sight in Georgian times and their arrival at a rural house did much to relieve the monotony and drudge of daily life. Morland’s rural subjects were extremely popular in the late 18th century and frequently made into engravings. Gaugain’s stipple engravings are in reverse to both the painted and first printed versions of Dancing Dogs.
Thomas Gainsborough who popularized the pig in British art by inclusion of the animal in his famous "cottage-door" paintings of the 1780's. Morland was a great admirer of Gainsborough and apparently studied and copied his work as part of his education.
George Morland 1763-1804 was a British artist in the first rank of sporting and rural genre artists of the Georgian era. His popularity in his own day was ensured by the publication of many prints after his pictures -- in all, 420 engravings of Morland’s work by 74 English engravers are known to exist, perhaps a record in British art. Morland first exhibited his works at the Royal Academy at the age of 15. His pictures are characterized by picturesque nostalgia reminiscent of similar scenes painted by Dutch and Flemish artists of the 17th century. Morland’s father, mother and grandfather were all artists. He received his early training from his father and then was apprenticed to Philip Dawe. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy at age 15. In 1786, he married the sister of mezzotint engraver William Ward, who, a month later, married Morland’s sister. The two men were close professional associates as well, with Ward engraving much of Morland’s work. From that point on, Morland was a prolific producer of paintings of rural genre subjects; the constant demand for engravings of them made him financially successful. A colourful character, he was a heavy drinker and spent himself into debt, and through much of the 1790s moved from town to town to stay one step ahead of the bailiffs. Nevertheless, he continued to produce paintings – his brother’s books list 792 in the last eight years of his life, along with 1,000 drawings. When the creditors finally caught up with him in London in 1799, Morland was arrested and made to live in the debtors’ district. He paid the price for his profligate lifestyle, and by his late 30s was in poor health, and died at age 41.