composite camel

Anonymous Indian artist. Composite Camel, 19th century. Miniature. Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts. 1963.24.694 

Artful Animals, Part 1

November 17, 2012April 28, 2013

Since the dawn of time, human beings have been fascinated with the animal world. Depictions of animals are some of the earliest known artistic efforts, dating back to the Paleolithic Era. And this interest has never abated. From sustenance to companionship, animals play a variety of roles in our lives and inspire a range of emotions—fear, love, awe—as well as a host of symbolic associations.

This exhibition draws from the vast resources of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts to produce a compelling portrait of the animal world, represented in a wide array of cultures, artistic styles, and media, from about AD 1500 to the present. Some of the artists included in this exhibition have drawn their subjects from life, depicting the roles they play in our everyday experience, while others have used animals with symbolic intent or have anthropomorphized them to humorous, playful, or even unsettling ends.

This first part of a two-part exhibition focuses on creatures both domestic—like dogs, horses, and rabbits and exotic (elephants, monkeys, and camels). Part two will examine fish, fowl, insects, cats, and rodents. Fun juxtapositions draw attention to both commonalities and contrasts among the broad assortment of creatures. Seen together, these works reveal the breathtaking variety not only in the animal kingdom, but also in humanity’s artistic interpretations of it.