William Wegman

A human model would not have the dog’s stamina, patience, verve, or seriousness.

-William Wegman

Although Wegman has experimented with many types of visual art as well as many subjects, he is most famous for his photographs and short films involving his gray Weimaraner dogs, Man Ray and Fay Ray. He often depicts them in situations that wouldn’t typically involve dogs and often dresses them in costumes made for humans.

In Wegman’s Ride, a purple velvet chair is pushed back so it is leaning solely on its back legs. The wood frame of the chair is visible. A Weimaraner dog is sitting in the chair, with only her head and front paws visible. She has a sort of regal, unconcerned look, despite the fact that the chair is tipped backwards. The chair’s shadow is visible in the photo.

In Override, a similar concept is being presented. The same purple velvet chair is shown in the same position, but this time the dog is in a profile view, facing the opposite way. She is standing up, attempting to brace himself from falling off the edge. Her tail is tucked under her, as if she was frightened. Again the chair’s shadow is visible.

Both pieces were anonymously donated to Plains Art Museum in 1996.

Artist Bio

William Wegman is famous for his photographs and videos involving gray Weimaraners.

Wegman was born in Holyoke, Massachusetts in 1942. He studied at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, where he received a BFA in painting in1965. Two years later he earned an MFA from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and began teaching at the University of Wisconsin. In 1970, he moved to California and taught at the University of Long Beach.

Wegman became very interested in both photography and video while in California. He also bought a Weimaraner and named him Man Ray after the famous modern artist. It became the subject of many of his large scale color photographs. In 1972, the artist and his dog moved to New York. Another Weimaraner, Fay Ray, became part of the Wegman family in 1986, and thus an additional subject for Wegman to use in his photography. At this time, Wegman began using a Polaroid 20 x 24 camera to capture his dogs on film.

Wegman has earned several grants and awards for his work. In addition to teaching, Wegman has contributed film and video work to such television shows as Nickelodeon, Saturday Night Live, Sesame Street, and several others. His film “The Hardly Boys in Hardly Gold,” starring his dogs, was shown at the Sundance Film Festival in 1996.

Wegman’s work has been exhibited worldwide and is currently in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the International Museum of Photography in Rochester, New York, the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, the Carnegie Institute and Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Plains Art Museum in Fargo, the Museum of Fine Art and De Meril Collection in Houston, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Los Angeles Co Museum of Art, and many others.

left: William Wegman, Ride, an ed. of PP 1/4, 1993, color lithograph, 37.5 x 50″
right: William Wegman, Override, an ed. of PP 1/4, 1993, color lithograph, 37.5 x 50″