There is no doubt David Roche AM (1930-2013) of Fermoy House, North Adelaide, was for many years Australia’s most celebrated and awarded dog judge, breeder and exhibitor.
David’s interest in dogs in the form of paintings, ceramics and bronze sculptures, as well as memorabilia; ribbons, trophies, certificates, photographs, journals and books is showcased in The David Roche Foundation House Museum and Gallery complex following its opening on June 3, 2016 by former Prime Minister of Australia, Paul Keating.
His fabulous painting of a ‘Pointer at Sunset’ c1900, painted by eminent British-American painter Maud Alice Earl (1864-1943) dominates the Green sitting room in his home.
As an aspect of the life of the founder of the complex, Director Martyn Cook and Curator Robert Reason believed it imperative for the themed opening show at least one of the trio of recently built galleries should reveal David Roche’s love of dogs.
Gallery 3: Kennels and Collecting offers a wonderful array of porcelain dogs, pottery statuary and dogs in art and document the nineteen best in shows he won and celebrate his active participation in the dog world both here at home and internationally.
David himself dominated the dog show scene across Australia for around three decades, just as he did the antiques scene in his area of interest.
His collection is mainly from the English Regency and French Empire periods of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century and is a tribute to David’s fine eye, one that could identify the best example of its kind, whether it was dogs, a fine work of art or a wonderful antique object of piece of furniture.
Love the bronze statue of the faithful dog standing silently at the door overseeing the gallery.
During his lifetime David Roche bred Afghan Hounds, Fox Terriers and the strong headed and highly spirited Kerry Blue Terriers, a breed originally bred to control ‘vermin’.
They enjoyed popularity as a farm dog in rural Ireland and as a pet that required an active skilled owner and David is accredited as putting the Kerry on the ‘dog’ map of Australia by importing many great English and American Champions.
There are pairs of pug dogs, greyhounds and whippets among the wondrous display, most of which come from some of Europe and England’s most prestigious and famous ceramic factories.
Collecting aesthetically pleasing items is quite normal and it’s really easy to become “hooked” on the search for that special piece, forgotten, unappreciated and unloved some perhaps more than others. David Roche amassed some 3,000+ works in his fabulous decorative arts collection, which he left to the Australian people. French artist Jean Baptiste Santerre’s wonderful image of Adam and Eve (Duc D’Orleans and Madame De Parabère) painted in 1716 a feature of Gallery 3 is not only fabulous because of the beauty of the human form but also the marvellous story behind the sitters and artist’s inclusion of hounds.
It is really a Portrait of the Regent of France, Philippe Duc D’Orléans (1674 – 1723) whose father was the younger brother of King Louis XIV. He’s depicted with his mistress, Marie-Madeleine De La Vieuville, known as Madame De Parabère and it was painted for the Abbé de Champéron, a friend of the artist.
The Duke became Regent of France when Louis XIV died in 1715 and his short and disastrous Regency ended when Louis XV came of age in February 1723.
During his short period in office the Duke’s irreverence, habitual drunkenness, licentious behaviour and bad boy attitude ensured that the ancien regime was set upon a revolutionary path.
Today we can reflect upon an age when reality, much like now, was often suspended in favour of another viewpoint. The artist presented this as one of a pair, this one with both the Regent and his lover both naked but seeming amenable at least to each other, while in the other retained at Versailles, he painted the illustrious couple wearing clothes. The hounds reflect the Duke’s love of The Hunt, a royal tradition ongoing for centuries, which continued for centuries in the forest surrounding the royal chateau of Fontainebleau Napoleon believed was the house of centuries.
Madame de Parabère received modest gifts of jewels however indulged herself in other affairs and the Duke is said to have ended their affair after whispering in her ear “What a beautiful head, I could have it cut off whenever I wished.”
Dogs in art are a special focus inside the David Roche House Museum set up in the style he enjoyed to live in.
His former walk in closet with glazed doors in his dressing room are now devoted to displaying an extraordinary array of awards and prize winning ribbons.
On one of the walls in the great Green room where David loved to sit with his friends surrounded by dogs is a painting revealing a gentleman in a landscape releasing his greyhounds.
If you look closely you will find a startling resemblance to that much-admired star of stage and screen English actor Ralph Fiennes. And, there is a good reason for that.
The oil on canvas painted by James Ramsay (1786-1854) reveals one of Ralph Fiennes ancestors ‘Coursing for Hares’.
This was a competitive sport in the eighteenth century for ‘gentlemen’ aimed at keeping game and vermin in check
An entirely captivating pair of pugs with appealing squashed faces large dark eyes and animated expression have also been much admired.
Always associated with royalty, Pugs are one of the earliest pure breeds of dog kept in Australia. It is uncertain as to when they actually first arrived, with the first records from the Agricultural Society of NSW listing two Pugs exhibited in 1870.
David had an extensive set of The Kennel Club Stud Books and the brand new state of the art museum wing has been built on the site of some of the most luxurious air-conditioned dog kennels in the world.
From the carved dogs overlooking the gates as you enter the David Roche House Museum and Gallery site you will find dogs peeping out of the various paintings or in intricately carved foliage on frames as you enjoy a guided tour of the collection.
This new addition to the Australian scene of decorative arts displays is very welcome. Also good to know before you go that you cannot just drop into a ‘House Museum’ the Government requirements are that you must have a ‘booking’ in place before you can visit. You can do that Online at their Website, by Email or by Phone.
Regular themed changes to the trio of galleries display will keep visitors coming back for more.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016
241 Melbourne Street,
North Adelaide, South Australia
Guided Tour Times Available
Please Note: Visitors MUST Book Tickets for a Tour in Advance*
All images by Carolyn McDowall
Parking is Available
*This is Government requirements for a House Museum