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Wildlife Art - A Popular Choice for Artwork Buyers

Stokstert Meerkat
Stokstert Meerkat
by Frans Boekkooi
The Game
The Game
by Caryn Fisher
A Fish Eagle Catching a Fish
A Fish Eagle Catching a Fish
by Paul Roos

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The first wildlife artists were our ancestors who lived in caves. During what leisure time they had in between hunting for food or being hunted themselves, they made pictures on cave walls of the animals that were around them. It’s no surprise that people continue to be fascinated by wildlife art today.

The cave drawings may be been made as part of some type of early religious ritual to help ensure a successful hunt. Figures of men successfully stalking and bringing down big game that have been found seem to indicate that was the purpose of the cave drawings. By picturing themselves successfully completing a hunt, it may have helped the group learn how to work together to reach their common goal.

Wildlife artwork has been used throughout history to symbolize characteristics that humans admire or are repulsed by. The story of Noah’s Ark comes to life with images of the animals entering the craft in pairs to take shelter from the coming flood waters. The dove, a symbol of peace, is used in the story to tell Noah that the waters have receded enough that there is dry land available that is home to life-sustaining olive trees.

The Chinese also produced wildlife art. Pieces from the Ming Dynasty included birds such as ducks, swans, and sparrows. Tigers and other animals were also depicted in a realistic manner during this time.

Indian artists also used local wildlife as subjects. Images of tigers and monkeys appear in stone carvings. These items were used for religious purposes and depicted real animals, as opposed to mythical creatures.

Native Americans used images of animals on their totem poles. Each animal on the pole represents a particular trait that they admired. Images of eagles, badgers, and wolves were all represented in this form of art.

In Europe during at the beginning of the Renaissance period, animal artwork was still depicting creatures as symbols instead of as they appear in the wild. Albrecht Durer is well known for his wildlife art, including images of birds like owls and bullfinches. He also painted a rhinoceros, monkey and a hare.

Wildlife art became more popular in the 18th century, and artists like Georges Cuvier, who painted fish, and American painter Edward Hicks were well known during this period. George Stubbs painted a number of animal images, including a cheetah, zebra, leopard, and a tiger. He was also known for his portraits of horses.

The images of wildlife portrayed by artists before photography was widely available was the only way that the public could get an idea of what exotic (to them) animals looked like. There may have been some specimens in royal collections and some zoos, but average people may not have been able to go to see them.

When someone decided to buy and display a piece of animal artwork, they could see and appreciate the grace, beauty and magnificence that exists in the animal world every time they looked at it. In that respect, they weren’t all that different from their cave-dwelling ancestors.