Sunday, September 28, 2008

Feathered Hearts of Wildness


Why is the best wildlife art relegated
to the Natural History Museum?

Here we are
at the tiny Brooker Gallery
tucked way in the northeast corner
of the gigantic Field Museum of Natural History

And as you can see
the work of Louis Agassiz Fuertes
makes for a commanding
graphic statement.

I.e. - he was doing much more
than merely cataloging the wildlife
of Western Africa
in the 1926 Abyssinian Expedition
of the Field Museum.

Yikes! - this is wild!

And each of these watercolors
accomplished in a single day,
while sitting in one of the expedition's
200 campsites
scattered around the boondocks of Ethiopia

Wildlife art is very difficult, limiting format
since it requires a sharply delineated figure
presented as biological specimen
rather than as an aesthetic moment.

The opportunities for weaving in and out
of the background space
are limited,
and the connoisseurs
want to see every damned feather

but still,
the artist can do some things
playful and goofy

this artist,
Louis Agassiz Fuertes,
specialized in presenting
a psychological presence
for his un-tamed subjects

and I've always felt
that animals were just people
with rather strong, but limited
eccentric personalities
who liked to dress up
in strange costumes

Here's Mr. Batelur
as stuffed and mounted
in the museum,

so you can see what the artist
had to work with.

and yes,
first the artist killed the animal
and then he drew him.

So these are men who seek and then kill
the most beautiful and rare animals
they can find.

Perhaps these men are
wild and eccentric animals themselves ?

But, boy, could this guy draw!

Rembrandt would be proud
of a painting like this one.


And yet -- this painting
never made it to the exhibition
(only 28 of 130 were shown)

To see this one,
and a few more,
you've got to go to
this website
which sells reproductions that are the only way
most of these paintings can ever be seen.

same thing with this beautiful piece
that even a Japanese or Chinese master
might envy.

And while you're at that site,

you can admire some other masters
of the wildlife genre,
like Daniel Elliot

and Edward Lear
(he of Limerick fame)

Believe it or not,
but masters of wildlife art
are still alive and kicking
-- like this sculptor I just found

But before their works end up
in major art museums,
some kind of cultural reformation
will have to take place.


Blogger GEM said...

Chris - thanks for posting these remarkable close studies of birds. This is an art form practiced by many but mastered by very few - the decisions made by the artist as to what to include and emphasize, and what to minimize is an artform in itself. G

September 29, 2008  
Blogger Robert said...

Chris, forgive me for being surprised that you should know of Edward Lear, and even of limericks! Like “Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes” I would not have associated these with an international appeal; especially with North American wholesomeness!

After the news over the last few weeks from your side of the pond, my respect is partially restored!!

Geoffrey Dashwood lived in the New Forest (new, because William The Conqueror planted it in 1080 something), not too far from here. He is self taught and his work is popular over here.

September 30, 2008  

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