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A Dog’s Idea of the Ideal Country Estate 1930

  • Author: HELD, John R
  • Publisher: Country Life Magazine
  • Date: 1930
  • Dimensions: Sheet: 26 x 36 cms / Map: 20 x 28.5 cms


“A Dog’s Idea of the Ideal Country Estate – An Imaginative Map” [1930] : John Held’s pictorial cartoon map of canine mayhem!

About this piece:

A Dog’s Idea of the Ideal Country Estate. An Imaginative Map by John Held Jr

Single page, printed in black & white, extracted from an early 1930’s issue of Country Life magazine, the pages numbered 55/56. Monochrome photographs (including of Jaro Hess’ “Land of Make Believe”) & text to verso. Wide margins with double staple holes to left side. Overall fine condition.

Charming canine-themed map, one of a series of three similar maps designed for publication in Country Life Magazine in the early 1930’s by the renowned American illustrator & cartoonist, John R Held or John Held Jr [1889-1958].

Held was a Mormon & native of Salt Lake City. His artistic talent manifested itself from a young age and he sold his first drawing to a local newspaper at the age of just nine. He then sold his first cartoon to Life magazine at the age of 15 and from 1905, still in his teens, became a regular contributor to the Salt Lake Tribune.  He was seconded to US Naval Intelligence as an artist and cartographer for an archaeological expedition to Central America in 1918 I and by the 1920’s had become an established cover artist for some of America’s leading illustrated magazines, including Life and Vanity Fair. In the late 1920’s and early 1930’s he also developed a distinctive woodcut & linocut style, and many of his designs and maps appeared in the Gay Nineties column of the New Yorker, founded by one of his college class mates, Harold Wallace Ross [1892-1951], and poking gentle fun at the older pre-war generation. By the same token, his drawings and cartoons also managed to capture the energy and excitement of the younger college generation, to the extent that they have become almost synonymous with the Jazz Age, not least in their portrayals of the 1920’s flapper.  Married four times, he died in New York in 1958 and is interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery.

An evident dog-lover, Held published numerous sketches of dogs during his career and even an illustrated book, Dog Stories [Vanguard Press, 1930], a delightful collection of stories, originally serialised in Cosmopolitan, told from the anthropomorphized perspective of Mac Dunald, a pampered Scottish terrier,  of a style & genre reminiscent of  Walter Emanuel & Cecil Aldin.

This cartoon map, published around the same time as the first edition of Held’s Dog Stories, unsurprisingly features the Scottish terrier once again but here as the anarchic representative of the canine kingdom. Held highlights the wonderful wit and humour to be found in the endearing antics & natural disobedience of dogs, particularly if provided with the creature comforts, pleasures & amenities of their own “ideal country estate”. Needless to say mud, raw steaks, slippers, cats, old ladies, bicycles, digging, barking, biting and bones all feature!

Refs: Katherine Harmon, You are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination [2004] ill p.169; The Works of John Held Jr [1931], ill p.12; David Rumsey Collection