- Associated Press - Thursday, February 24, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - A menagerie of animals has wandered in and out of Jamie Wyeth’s art studio on his Delaware farm over the years, including his late yellow Labrador, Kleberg. But when the pooch got too close to his easel back in the 1980s, Wyeth painted a black circle around the dog’s eye _ a la Pete the Pup of the old comedy “Little Rascals.”

The unusual marking became so “endearing” that the lab became the subject of numerous studies and paintings, the artist said. One of those works, “Study of Kleberg,” is scheduled to be sold at Christie’s on March 3 for an estimated $40,000 to $60,000. The 1984 mixed media work went on exhibit there on Thursday.

The seller is a collector from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who has owned it for 20 years.

Wyeth is the son of the great American painter Andrew Wyeth and the grandson of classic novel illustrator N.C. Wyeth. He paints the animals, people and landscapes in and around his studio and homes in Pennsylvania and Maine.

“I thought it looked so wonderful,” he said of the marking he gave the dog.

He said he was a big fan of the series of comedy short films “Our Gang,” also known as “The Little Rascals,” that featured a pit bull with a black circle around one eye called Pete the Pup.

Visitors to the Wilmington, Del., farm would react in amazement, saying, “`how remarkable the markings are on that dog,’” the 64-year-old artist said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The artist discovered that moustache dye was a better medium than paint for Kleberg’s black eye because it would last about a month.

“So every month we would have to touch up his circle,” which remained a permanent fixture for the rest of Kleberg’s life, he said.

“Study of Kleberg” is a study for a large oil on canvas called “Kleberg,” which is at the Terra Foundation for American Art in Chicago.

Wyeth’s farm is near the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pa., which houses three generations of Wyeth works.

Kleberg, the dog, is now buried in a cemetery on the farm, where horses, pigs, chickens, ducks and geese _ all subjects in Wyeth’s works _ are buried.

“It’s getting pretty crowded up there,” Wyeth said.

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