Animalism art: symbols and stories

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Animalism art: symbols and stories

Painting provides limitless possibilities for exploring this world. Some artists dwell on the closest and yet most unfamiliar to all of us - a person. Landscape painters are fanned and warmed by nature. Marine painters greedily draw from the eternal water source. Animalists, on the other hand, are not so interested in common nature scapes and in man. What kind of genre is animalism? Whose names glorified it? And are there artists among kings?

Famous animalists

The animalistic genre focuses on the depiction of animals in various forms of art. Beauty, together with the plasticity of the body, attracts the attention of the artist. He, as a biologist, explores the subject of his interest. A variety of species and forms, or simply affection for a beloved pet, makes animal artists turn to this particular genre over and over again. The magic of turning life into art enchants them time after time. Did you feel the same while painting?

George Stubbs

Among the famous animal painters, George Stubbs stands out. The 18th-century English artist immortalized himself with talented drawings of horses. The boy learned to draw them at a young age. Later, interest in horses did not decrease. He conveyed their graceful strength through anatomically honed drawings. Flowering nature, as a rule, becomes the background of Stubbs' painting. Picturesque horses were adored by the aristocracy, who knew about horse racing and knew a lot about successful bets.

Johann Friedrich Groot

Another talented animal painter is Johann Friedrich Groot. The painter from Stuttgart worked in Russia most of his life, where he died. Empress Elizaveta Petrovna loved hunting, and Groot miraculously depicted bloody hunting scenes. So the Russified Ivan Fedorovich enjoyed the favor of the daughter of Peter I, and the whole court followed her in this love. But the privileges of a talented artist are not limited to the location of the monarch. What could be better?

Paul de Vos

Another interesting painter who loved to catch animals’ vibrant souls on his canvas was Paul de Vos. He loved to show animals’ wild and unruled nature full of primitive yet bright feelings. All kinds of hunting scenes: from the start where dogs are running for the prey to the hunting peak where just after a moment they will bite a deer’s neck. And scenes afterward when prey is caught and lies motionless but battles for the meal still being continued.

With dedication and attention to the smallest details like every claw, fang, coat pattern, and muscle he pictured endless burning energy. That without any question admired and fascinated him.

“Cats fighting in a larder” is a good finely made example of animalism art by Paul de Vos. This picture depicts a cat’s fight for food and territory and this scene is painted as baroque as it can be. We see classic Flamand still life with the fruits and wildfowl on the plates and in the wicker basket in a smooth warm goldish color palette. And all this stillness is purely broken by the three cats fiercely grappling and fighting for their life. And we see another cat jumping into this fight from the window in all its feline grace and elegant power. We can’t say surely what breed they are, we just can be sure that they don’t look like breeds that are widely spread nowadays like a Siamese cat.


For art there are no boundaries, even classes. Animalistic paintings by Zhu Zhanji, the emperor of China, who lived in the 15th century, confirm this. Do not think that the pursuit of fine arts was at the expense of the work of the emperor. Having inherited the throne from his father, our hero deftly managed to stop the uprising of his own uncle Zhu Gaoxuem. During the time that Zhu Zhanji was at the helm, the country experienced ups and downs. Social, political, and economic internal improvements were accompanied by the complete defeat of the Chinese army in Vietnam in 1427. After a ten-year reign in the father's country, the place of the emperor was taken by the artist's son.

But still, not only in the dynastic chain of rulers of China, his name forever left a mark. Zhanji's paintings are still in front of the eyes of the audience. The talented emperor managed to leave not so many paintings in his short life. "Saluki Pair", "Gibbons Play", "Mouse and Stone" refer to the decade of his reign. Made with water-based paints, the animals on them are translucent. The lightness, and elegance with which they are executed fill the figures with movement. Mobile and curious dogs and gibbons are the best heroes for the flowing water-based paint.

The paintings are not overloaded, they only show animals with a minimum of landscape sketches. Without touching the symbols, perhaps hidden in the works, we see that their space is very functional. The dog leaned over to examine the plants, it happened more than once in his life. The monkey could have been hanging in the air, but the author of the picture saved us from this funny position by adding a liana. The mouse hides in the leaves hanging around, which are denser and larger than it. Sensitivity and talent give birth to art. If you feel the world around you, like a painter, sharply, you will create a picture no worse. All in your hands!

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