Friday, March 23, 2012

Animal Beauty at the Grand Palais in Paris

One of the most popular forms of art is that which portrays the animal.  Animal Beauty, a new exhibition which opened yesterday at the Galeries Nationale due Grand Palais in Paris is bound to draw big crowds between now and the summer (it closes on 16 July).

I've not seen it - however I have managed to get hold of some of the images of work in the show and it looks as if it's stunning.  I must confess a particular liking for the older works!

Deux chiens de chasse liés à une souche 1548-1549 by Jacopo Bassano
Deux chiens de chasse liés à une souche (1548-1549)
by Jacopo da Ponte, known as Jacopo BASSANO (1515-1592)
oil on canvas, 61 x 80 cm
Department of Paintings, Louvre Museum, Paris
© Service presse Réunion des musées nationaux - Grand Palais / Stéphane Maréchalle
Animal Beauty
The exhibition looks at the artwork which has resulted from the relationship that artists have developed with animals.  It includes 130 artworks from the Renaissance to the present day - everything from Albrecht Durer to Jeff Koons.

The artwork covers all aspects of the animal kingdom - with wildlife mingling with more domestic animals, and the strange with the more familiar.

Les Oiseaux (1619) by an anonymous German Painter
Les Oiseaux (1619) by an anonymous German Painter
oil on canvas, 141 x 96 cm
Strasbourg, musée des Beaux-Arts
© Musée des Beaux-Arts, Strasbourg, photo M. Bertola
There are paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, and photographs.  They demonstrate the enormous diversity in which animals are portrayed.  At the same time they share a commonality - every artwork is about the animal alone - with no human presence

Cheval caracolant (1881-1890) by Edgar DEGAS (1834-1917)
Cheval caracolant (1881-1890) by Edgar DEGAS (1834-1917)
Paris, musée d’Orsay
© Service presse Réunion des musées nationaux - Grand Palais / Hervé Lewandowsk

Sections of the exhibition

I. Looking at Animals

In the Renaissance the emphasis was on observation and learning about animals - what they looked like and how they moved.  Animals were studied closely and described in minute detail.  At the time, new lands and new animals and birds were being discovered.  In time new breeds were developed.

The artwork shows us both the new discoveries and the new breeds and the breeds which have subsequently been lost or gone out of fashion.

Rhinocéros (1515) by Albrecht DURER (1471-1528)
Rhinocéros (1515) by Albrecht DURER (1471-1528)
wood engraving, 21.2 x 30 cm
Paris, BnF, département des Estampes et de la photographie
© Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France
This very famous woodcut by Durer records the arrival in Lisbon of an Indian rhinoceros on 20 May 1515.
The ruler of Gujarat, Sultan Muzafar II (1511-26) had presented it to Alfonso d'Albuquerque, the governor of Portuguese India. Albuquerque passed the gift on to Dom Manuel I, the king of Portugal. The rhinoceros travelled in a ship full of spices.

On arrival in Lisbon, Dom Manuel arranged for the rhinoceros to fight one of his elephants (according to Pliny the Elder's Historia Naturalis ('Natural History') (AD 77), the elephant and rhinoceros are bitter enemies). The elephant apparently turned and fled.

A description of the rhinoceros soon reached Nuremberg, presumably with sketches, from which Dürer prepared this drawing and woodcut.

No rhinoceros had been seen in Europe for over 1000 years, so Dürer had to work solely from these reports. He has covered the creature's legs with scales and the body with hard, patterned plates.

British Museum - Albrecht Dürer's Rhinoceros, a drawing and woodcut

II. Aesthetic and Moral Prejudices

What I didn't know is that France had Buffon (Comte de Buffon, Georg Louis LeClerc (1707-1788),) who was a gentleman who was hugely influential in the development of a Natural History of animals.  His book, published shortly before the French Revolution contains some beautiful plates of animals
His great work is the Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière; and it can undoubtedly claim the merit of having been the first work to present the previously isolated and apparently disconnected facts of natural history in a popular and generally intelligible form......

The edition most highly prized by collectors, on account of the beauty of its plates, is the first, which was published in Paris (1749-1804) in forty-four quarto volumes, the publication extending over more than fifty years. In the preparation of the first fifteen volumes of this edition (1749-1767) Buffon was assisted by Daubenton, and subsequently by P. Guéneau de Montbéliard, the abbé G.L.C.A. Bexon, and C.N.S. Sonnini de Manoncourt. The following seven volumes form a supplement to the preceding, and appeared in 1774-1789, the famous Époques de la nature (1779) being the fifth of them. They were succeeded by nine volumes on the birds (1770-1783), and these again by five volumes on minerals (1783-1788). The remaining eight volumes, which complete this edition, appeared after Buffon's death, and comprise reptiles, fishes and cetaceans.

1911 Encyclopædia Britannica - Buffon, George Louis Leclerc
The exhibition suggests that Buffon's distinction between noble and ignoble animals led to phenomena such as phobias about insects.  As a result, some species were neglected by scientists and artists alike. Art these days overturns these values and artists look at animals that have long been denigrated. César’s Bat and Louise Bourgeois’s Spider are good examples.

Insectes et araignée (1660) by Jan I VAN KESSEL (1626-1679)
oil on canvas, 17 x 23 cm
Strasbourg, musée des Beaux-Arts
© Musée des Beaux-Arts, Strasbourg, photo M. Bertola

III. Monkeys and Men 

This section deals with the notion that monkeys were related to man - and how they were subsequently portrayed in artwork.  This followed the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species in 1959 was a shock for Judeo-Christian civilisation.

IV. New Sensitivity 

This section traces the ethics and morality of the relationship between animals and man from tales from the bible and the mythology relating to Noah’s Ark - through to discussions of the suffering of animals and whether animals have a soul.  Latterly the emphasis has been on the development of associations protecting animal rights
Artworks demonstrated animal sensitivity and the whole range of their irresistible expressions.
V. Otherness : Exotic Animals

Exotic animals have been a status symbol and sought after by Kings and Popes.  They were  collected in menageries to which some artists had privileged access.
In 1793, the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes sparked a craze for zoos and their popularity has never waned. France thus enabled artists to come close to animals: this was the beginning of animal painting with major figures such as Barye and Delacroix. The artist found an increasingly varied range of models in the menagerie.
Head of a Lion (vers 1819) by Théodore GERICAULT (1791-1824)
oil on canvas, 55 x 65 cm
Paris, musée du Louvre, département des peintures
© Service presse Réunion des musées nationaux -
Grand Palais / Christian Jean

Exhibition details

I'd very much recommend buying a ticket in advance if this exhibition is popular.  I vividly remember queuing at the Galeries Nationale to see an exhibition!

View this diagram to find the right entrance - written by one who knows how confusing it is.  You need the Clemenceau entrance

Dates: Wednesday 21 March to Monday 16 July 2012  (Closed: 1 May): - Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 to 20:00. Wednesday and Friday from 10:00 to 22:00
Admission prices : Full price : 12 €; Reduced price : 8 € (13-25 years old, unemployed). Free for under 13 years old or RSA beneficiaries and basic pensioners.
You can buy tickets online.
Location: Galeries nationales (Grand palais, Champs-Elysées) - Clemenceau Entrance
3, avenue du Général Eisenhower, 75008 Paris
Information Tel: +33 (0)1 44 13 17 17
Reception for groups
Tel: +33 (0)1 44 13 17 64
Fax (groups): +33 (0)1 44 13 17 60
Access: Metro: Champs-Elysées Clémenceau or Franklin-D. Roosevelt.
Bus: lines 28, 32, 42, 72, 73, 80, 83, 93. Vélib’ stations 8029 and 8001

Links: Wildlife Art - Resources for Artists

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading / viewing your blog and since I've only just found it I've a lot of catching up to do. Now I know why you are busily photographing
    exhibitions! Your advice on etiquette is also really good - thank you.


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