ARTISTRY

Dog Days
At his home in Maine,
William Wegman shows why
worldwide acclaim for his art goes
far beyond his iconic Weimaraner
photographs.
///////////

By Robert Kiener

E

very artist needs a muse.
Picasso was inspired by Françoise Gilot (among others), Paul
Gauguin by his Tahitian beauty
Teha’amana, and Andrew Wyeth by Helga
Testorf. ­William Wegman, the multifaceted, world-famous artist and photographer, is no exception.
As Wegman lunches with a visitor at
his Maine lakeside retreat, several of his
beautiful, trim muses sit nearby, their
big eyes following his every gesture,
their floppy ears listening to every word.
Suddenly, he tosses a piece of ham on the
floor and they all scamper, their toenails
skittering and scraping along the weathered pine floor as they tussle for the treat.
“Weimaraners,” says Wegman, with

48  New England Home  november–december 2014

ABOVE: Leaf Line (2005), pigment print, 44″H
× 36″W. LEFT: Walker (1990), color Polaroid,

24″H × 20″W

only a hint of a wry smile, “make
beautiful models.” As one of his fourlegged muses ambles over to lick his
hand, he adds, “But they’re always
hungry.”
To his legions of devoted fans,
­William Wegman is largely known
as “the dog photographer.” His droll
photographs of the charismatic
canines—all his and all Weimaraners—often dressed and posed in
humorous and outrageous situations,
have been featured in dozens of
books and scores of one-man shows.

Artistry

His photographs and artwork are in the
permanent collections of the Museum
of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of
American Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and more.
But the tousle-haired, self-effacing
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: For a Moment... (1971),

silver gelatin print, 14″H × 11″W; Sandy Beach
(2007), oil and postcards on wood panel, 14 7⁄ 8″H ×
19 7⁄ 8″W; Accident? So Sorry (1997), altered greeting
card, 14½″H × 11″W; Still pictures from the video
Museum (2002), 58 seconds long; Souvenir (2001),
watercolor and postcards on paper, 18½″H × 22″W.
FACING PAGE: The artist at work.
50  New England Home  november–december 2014

Wegman, a native of Holyoke, Massachusetts, is more than a dog photographer.
As one New York Times art reviewer noted,
“Mr. Wegman is one of the most important artists to emerge from the heady
experiments of the 1970s.”
The key word here is artist. Although
he has carved out a successful career as a
photographer, he is also a much-admired
painter. He produces drawings and videos, too. His films and videos have been
featured on Saturday Night Live, Sesame
Street, and Nickelodeon.
As Wegman shows off the cavernous,

10,000-square-foot former lodge that
he calls home every summer, he points
out several paintings that he describes
as “works in progress” in his spacious,
light-filled first-floor studio, formerly the
lodge’s kitchen. The large-scale, colorful,
collage-like works feature vintage postcards; Wegman uses them as a starting
point, painting around them to incorporate them into a scene. “I love prowling
through Maine to find these lovely old
postcards,” he says. Painting, he reveals,
is his first love and the reason he went to
the Massachusetts College of Art in 1965

Kimberly M. Wang

and earned an MFA from the University
of Illinois in 1967.
Wegman spends part of the year in a
New York City apartment that he shares
with his two children, his art-book publisher wife, Christine Burgin, and their
dogs. He often retreats to this place in
western Maine. “My work seems to be
freer up here, compared with my work in
my New York studio,” he says.
As if on cue, his famous models come

charging into the studio. “That’s Flo, Topper, Candy, and Bobbin,” says Wegman.
He picks up Topper and sets him gingerly
on a high stool to illustrate how the dog
loves to pose. “He’s a natural model and
likes to work,” the artist says. “Each of the
dogs has a unique personality; some like
to pose, others not so much.”
Wegman has come to terms with what
some have called “Wegman, Inc.,” the
ever-expanding universe of calendars,
children’s books, T-shirts, posters, prints,
videos, and more, all of which feature his
iconic Weimaraners. He confesses he once
“felt nailed to the dog cross. I used to feel
hemmed in by the ‘dog photographer’
label, but I’ve gotten over that.”
Then, almost as an aside, he adds,
“Truth is, I’m not really a dog person.”
He’s kidding, right?
“No, I’m serious,” he explains. “For
example, I don’t like little dogs or anything doggy. Weimaraners aren’t really
doggy. They are dogs, but they’re not
doggy dogs.”
He turns to Flo, Topper, Candy, and
Bobbin, who seem to have been hanging
on his every word. “Let’s go, guys,” he
says. “Time for a walk in the woods.” •
Editor’s Note To see more of Wegman’s work, go to

williamwegman.com
november–december 2014  New England Home 51