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August, 1999: Spotlight on Animals in Art

Because art museums in general do not feel that animals and wildlife are a sufficiently serious subject to devote one's career to, only a handful of artists are well-represented in our database. John James Audubon, Antoine-Louis Barye, Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, Rosa Bonheur, folk artist Edward Hicks, Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Jacques-Laurent Agasse, and George Stubbs are virtually the only artists who have broken through to become accepted as great artists in their own right. Not a single twentieth-century artist comes to mind. [Postscript: Visitors have pointed out that Deborah Butterfield and Franz Marc have both achieved this kind of critical acceptance.
 
Yet no field has a higher standard for technical excellence. Sometimes it seems like all of the artists with great drafting skills have ended up here.
 
It must be admitted that much of the work has a sentimental or nostalgic feel to it, but I can certainly enjoy sentiment and nostalgia in measured doses. And the underlying theme of all wildlife art today is the ongoing destruction of the natural world. That's a plenty serious subject for anyone to tackle.
 
 
The featured artist for August is Antoine-Louis Barye, the French Romantic Realist sculptor who returned again and again to the theme of life and death, predator and prey.
 
The European colonial expansion engendered a great surge of interest in exotic natural history in the early 19th century, the ultimate fruit of which was Darwin's great insight. The anatomical precision of Barye's sculptures, and the great drama and vigor of all of his works, no doubt imparted a sense of wonder to the people of that era, of a type we can no longer comprehend. Click here to see a list of places where his work can be seen online.

 
The featured museum site is the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Click here for a brief review of the site.

 
The featured online exhibit is the PBS's companion to its American Visions series. Click here for a brief review of the exhibit and to visit it.

 
Natural Worlds The featured book for this month is Robert Bateman's Natural Worlds. I love this book, and I actually happened to buy it from Amazon.com. I ordered it on a Saturday night, and I got an email the next afternoon saying that it had been already shipped. Wow. When it arrived my wife and I immediately sat down and read it cover to cover together. Well, we looked at all the pictures, anyway.
 
P.S. Don't forget to visit our Robert Bateman page.

 
The featured print is the wonderful Cats, by Théophile Steinlen, a turn-of-the-century French painter and poster artist.
 
P.S. Don't forget to visit our Steinlen page, either.
Steinlen: Cats

 
Previous Features
  July, 1999
Surrealism
Artist: Odd Nerdrum
Museum: Museum of Modern Art, New York
Exhibit: Virtuo Official Magritte Site
Book: Mystery of Magritte CD-ROM
Print: Santiago El Grande, by Salvador Dalí
  June, 1999
Sculpture
Artist: Audrey Flack
Museum: Carol Gerten's Fine Art
Exhibit: Michael Lucero: Sculpture 1976-1995
Book: Anish Kapoor
Print: Cupid And Psyche, by Antonio Canova
  May, 1999
Women in the Arts
Artist: Georgia O'Keeffe
Museum: National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington D.C.
Exhibit: Jenny Holzer: Please Change Beliefs
Book: Cindy Sherman: Retrospective
Print: Self-Portrait with Monkeys, by Frida Kahlo
  April, 1999
The Golden Age of Illustration
Artist: Maxfield Parrish
Museum: Fine Arts Museums Of San Francisco
Exhibit: Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe online
Books: Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe
Print: Cinderella (Enchantment), by Maxfield Parrish
  March, 1999
Vincent van Gogh
Artist: Vincent van Gogh
Museum: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Exhibit: The Vincent van Gogh Information Gallery
Book: Van Gogh's Van Goghs
Print: Terrasse de Cafe
  February, 1999
Great Art
Artist: Leonardo da Vinci
Museum: The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
Exhibit: John Singleton Copley: Watson and the Shark
Book: The Sistine Chapel: A Glorious Restoration
Print: L'Astronomia, by Raphael