Sir Edwin Landseer, R.A. 1802 - 1873
A sow with her piglets
Photo: R.A.
© Royal Academy of Arts, London
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A sow with her piglets, ca.1810-12
Pencil on cream wove paper, 8.9 X 8.5 cm
Given by Sir John Aird, 1883
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Sir Edwin Landseer's lifelong passion for depicting animals is evident even in his earliest drawings. He drew the animals he saw around him, taking a particular interest in farms. The Royal Academy's collection of early Landseer drawings includes a menagerie of cattle, pigs and horses, in common with another group of his early studies in the Victoria & Albert Museum.

According to the artist's father, the fields which then existed near the Finchley Road were 'Edwin's first studio'. He continued ' I then lived in Foley Street and nearly all the way between Marylebone and Hampstead was open fields. It was a favourite walk with my boys; and one day when I had accompanied them, Edwin stopped by this stile to admire some sheep and cows which were quietly grazing. At his request I lifted him over and finding a scrap of paper and a pencil in my pocket I made him sketch a cow. He was very young indeed then - not more than six or seven years old.'

In August 1810 the artist and diarist Joseph Farington recorded that he had received a visit from John Landseer (Edwin's father) who 'shewed some sketches of Cattle made by His Son, a Child of 7 years old, remarkably well done for his age'.