His Master's Voice
The arcane painting is titled, "Dog looking at
and listening to a Phonograph" -- so the artist called
the picture he completed after brother and dog died
-- a terrier who lived at the time of Jack the Ripper,
only this was Nipper not Ripper, who'd nip
the backs of people's legs in Richmond Park and chase
rats and pheasants. But is Nipper listening
or talking to his master in the after life?
The old 78 goes round and round and round.
Christopher T. George
Erik Østergaard's "The History of Nipper and His Master's Voice" states that
Nipper the dog was born in Bristol in Gloucester, England in 1884 and so named because of his tendency to nip the backs of visitors' legs. When his first master Mark Barraud died destitute in Bristol in 1887, Nipper was taken to Liverpool in Lancashire, England by Mark's younger brother Francis, a painter.
In Liverpool Nipper discovered the Phonograph, a cylinder recording and playing machine and Francis Barraud "often noticed how puzzled he was to make out where the voice came from". This scene must have been indelibly printed in Barraud's brain, for it was three years after Nipper died that he committed it to canvas.
Nipper died in September 1895, having returned from Liverpool to live with Mark Barraud's widow in Kingston-upon-Thames in Surrey, England. Though not a thoroughbred, Nipper had plenty of bull terrier in him; he never hesitated to take on another dog in a fight, loved chasing rats and had a fondness for the pheasants in Richmond Park!
In 1898 Barraud completed the painting and registered it on 11 February 1899 as "Dog looking at and listening to a Phonograph".