150 years of The Kennel Club celebrated in London gallery exhibition

Today (4 April), The Kennel Club Art Gallery, based in Mayfair, London, is proud to unveil a special exhibition to celebrate 150 years of The Kennel Club and the evolution of the bond between dogs and owners. Canine enthusiasts, historians, art lovers and anyone interested in how man’s best friend developed alongside humans are all welcome to delve into the collection of unique and rare artworks and items displayed, some of which have never been exhibited before.

From being founded 150 years ago today (4 April 1873) by Mr Sewallis Evelyn Shirley, MP, and 12 other members, to becoming one of the largest organisations in the UK devoted to dog health, welfare and training, a collection of original paintings, historical artefacts, vintage photographs and more will be on display in the special exhibition, mapping The Kennel Club’s journey from its beginnings 150 years ago, to now, and the evolution of our canine companions.

The exhibition encapsulates the variety of canine activities developed over time which are now internationally enjoyed by dogs and owners alike – including agility, obedience and field trials – an activity first recognised by The Kennel Club Stud book in 1865. Archived records, certificates and drawings decipher how The Kennel Club went from the early dog shows, known as the ‘Dog Fancy’ in the 1840s; to larger city shows in the early 1870s, and the creation of the world’s greatest dog show, Crufts, which today celebrates the diverse roles dogs play in the modern day – as pets and in society.

The exhibition has been curated as an immersive calendar of the last 150 years of society with nods to significant historic events, such as poignant images of the bomb damage from 1941 on Clarges Street, London, and delving into the history of women in The Kennel Club, such as the Duchess of Newcastle, first Chairman of the Ladies Branch in 1901, and Florence Nagle, who gained full membership for women.

Visitors can explore the evolution of The Kennel Club through first editions of documents still published today, such as the first Kennel Gazette magazine (1880) which printed the first monthly register of dog names, and the first Kennel Club Stud Book (1874) which published the first results of dog shows and field trials from 1859.

Part of the exhibition is dedicated to the future of the organisation – including The Young Kennel Club, founded in 1985 – which inspires the next generation of dog enthusiasts and introduces 6 to 24 year olds into canine activities such as agility, heelwork to music and dog showing, and The Kennel Club’s innovations in canine health.

Ciara Farrell, The Kennel Club’s Library and Collections manager, said: “When looking back through the last 150 years and The Kennel Club archives, it was challenging to squeeze all the history into one curated collection.

“We were keen to ensure there was a celebration of the longstanding connection between the Royal Family and The Kennel Club, starting back in the reign of Queen Victoria to the late Queen Elizabeth II. We are honoured to be exhibiting for the first time a stunning new acquisition of a pair of dress studs that belonged to Francis Clark, Queen Victoria’s Highland Attendant, which feature in two original photographs of Queen Victoria’s favourite dogs, Sharp and Noble.

“Contemporary exhibits of Royal interest also include a painting of President of The Kennel Club, Prince Michael of Kent’s Labrador Retrievers, Garbo and Ebony, by John Silver, and a never before exhibited sketch of Prince Michael with another Labrador, Sponge, by Julie Brenan.” 

The Kennel Club’s Chairman, Tony Allcock OBE, Said: “We are excited to be able to celebrate our anniversary within our gallery, via a special exhibition, which we would encourage anyone to come along to and experience – through our historical artefacts, paintings and photographs – The Kennel Club’s journey from 150 years ago to now.

“Here’s to our next 150 years, as The Kennel Club continues to make a positive difference for dogs, and their owners.”

The exhibition is open to the public at The Kennel Club Art Gallery at 10 Clarges Street, Mayfair, W1J 8AB, from 9:30am to 4:30pm from now until 19 January 2024.

To book your visit, please email The Kennel Club Art Gallery or call 020 7518 1064.  

To find out more about The Kennel Club Art Gallery, visit The Kennel Club Art Gallery & Library or follow the Gallery’s Instagram

More information on The Kennel Club’s history and 150 year anniversary, including a video about the organisation and its impact, from its beginnings to today, and plans for the future, is available here.