Like many ten-year-old boys, Keith Haring loved to draw cartoons. Unlike other ten-year-old boys, Haring wrote in his journal, “When I grow up I would like to be an artist in France.”
The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing
Haring’s mother said that when he was just a year old, he would sit on his father’s lap and draw. Haring’s father was an engineer who drew cartoons as a hobby.
The influence of his father led him to copy the works of great cartoonists like Charles Shulz and Friz Freleng. Throughout his life Haring continued to draw, honing his art until he created a style of his own, with simple yet bold outlines and short, radiant lines that he used for emphasis in his work.
In February, Penguin Random House published a children’s book by Haring’s sister, Kay Haring, called Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing.
Keith Haring’s Animals
As a young art student, Haring was influenced by the works of Belgian artist, Pierre Alechinsky. Alechinsky used images of animals and humans, intertwined in his designs.
When he moved to New York in 1978, with a scholarship to the School of Visual Arts, Haring saw what he needed to do to perfect his style. “Graffiti were the most beautiful things I ever saw,” he said. “The kids who were doing it were very young and from the streets, but they had this incredible mastery of drawing which totally blew me away. I mean, just the technique of drawing with spray paint is amazing, because it’s incredibly difficult to do. And the fluidity of line, and the scale, and always the hard-edged black line that tied the drawings together. It was the line I had been obsessed with since childhood.”
Between 1980 and 1985, Haring did as many as forty drawings a day in the subways of New York. Like other graffiti artists, Haring needed a tag. He used a simplified animal drawing, which, through many repetitions, became the iconic dog, that is instantly recognizable.
Humans and Others
Haring’s dog eventually morphed into a person crawling on all fours and, finally, into a baby. The image of The Baby became a useful symbol for Haring to use in what became the icon that Haring used in his political and personal work, a symbol that became universally relatable.
The human forms in his works were deceptively simple and through his use of line and form, Haring was able to twist them, turn them on their heads and combine them in and around other human, animal and mechanical forms.
Keith Haring’s Animals, Humans and Others Come Full Circle
In 1985, at the age of 27, Haring was honored with a show at the Bordeaux Contemporary Art Museum in France. Along with his work, Haring was asked to do a mural on the walls of the museum, realizing his childhood dream of becoming an artist in France.
Keith Haring at VFA
Please contact us for more information about Barking Dog and the other fine works by Keith Haring, available in our gallery.