Exhibition | Animal Beauty in Paris

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on March 26, 2012

From the Grand Palais:

Beauté Animale / Animal Beauty
Grand Palais, Galeries Nationales, Paris, 21 March — 16 June 2012

Curated by Emmanuelle Héran

Ever since the Renaissance, artists and naturalists have observed animals closely and represented them as accurately as they could. Nevertheless, naturalism ends where the norm and morality begin: various ethical and aesthetic criteria were established which influenced the artists’ point of view. There is extraordinary variety in the ways the same animal is represented. They reveal our fascination and curiosity for a world whose diversity is far from fully explored.

Through a set of major works, the exhibition looks at the relationships that artists, often great painters and sculptors, have developed with animals. It shows that there is still a close link between art and science, between our desire to know about animals and our fascination for their beauty. Paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, famous or unfamiliar… the exhibition brings together about 130 masterpieces of Western art from the Renaissance to the present day, and takes a radical new approach by choosing works in which the animal is shown on its own and for itself, without any human presence. This marvellous menagerie, laid out in a clear design accessible to all audiences, will mingle wild and domestic beasts, the strange and the familiar.

I. Looking at Animals
Just like human beauty, animal beauty must meet specific criteria, which vary with different periods and milieus. A revolution occurred at the Renaissance: outstanding artists such as Dürer, and then the pioneers of zoology studied animals closely and described them in minute detail. This was also when the discovery of the New World revealed new animals, such as parrots and turkeys. Repertoires were soon built up. As soon as they could study animals, painters kept a record of them in their albums, which they dipped into for motifs which had already inspired other works. They also worked on anatomical studies and tried to analyse motion, such as the movements of a galloping horse. But man was not content to represent animal beauty; he modified it, transforming the animals themselves, with all the means that science put at his disposal. New breeds of cows, dogs and cats appear in works of art. And conversely, paintings show us breeds that have gone out of fashion.

II. Aesthetic and Moral Prejudices (more…)

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