World Animal Day – Our Love of Animals and their Impact on Art

October 4th is World Animal Day. It dates as far back as 1925 when Heinrich Zimmermann organised the first celebration in Berlin, the mission of which is to unite the animal welfare movement and raise standards around the globe, giving a voice to those who can't speak for themselves.

The date was specifically chosen as it is the feast day of Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, beloved among Catholics and recognised for his remarkable way with animals and all living things.

Since 2003 the event has been sponsored by UK charity Naturewatch Foundation, who have organised ways for animals lovers the world over to support domesticated, wild and endangered species who lack protection or face environmental devastation.

It is a great way to remind us all to show love and appreciation for all living things, not just the ones in our homes.

All around the world, animals have a strong impact on culture, and this is especially so in art. The treatment of the animal kingdom has long been raised through the arts.

In 1877, the novel Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (rather uniquely for the time) told the story from the horse's perspective, and sparked debate over the unfair treatment of horses by humans.

The satirical 1945 George Orwell novella Animal Farm, a narrative for the Russian Revolution, similarly spoke of the plight of animals at the hands of humans, telling of a group of farm animals who stage a rebellion against their mistreatment at the hands of their 'master', and their dreams of living a life free
from oppression and abuse.

Animals have been represented in art in many ways, from mythical creatures and religious symbols, representations of rural life and nature, to simply pets. As renown art institute Tate says “Art can help us explore our relationship to wildlife and can help us think about how we care for animals and the environment.”

The magnificent bronze work of award-winning sculptor Adam Binder – namely his 12ft polar bear Boris – has previously been displayed at London Zoo in an effort to help raise awareness for the plight of this species. You can find smaller pieces from Adam denoting these beautiful creatures on our online gallery.

Exploring the ecosystems in which animals live, and the textures, colours and shapes is something that is a constant source of inspiration for artists.

As long as 40,000 years ago animal paintings covered cave walls depicting large wild animals such as bison, deer, horses and pigs. Historians posit that they may have been created as a way of storytelling and warnings of danger to facilitate survival.

Art can depict the brutality of the natural world as well as the beauty - talking of an 1826 painting of two horses fighting by French Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix, Cambridge University Art History graduate Aleid Ford writes “[he] painted his horses with a wild vitality: flicking brushstrokes capture the animal’s fear and agony in the face of certain death in this pen and ink and watercolour work...For romantic painters like Delacroix, the energy and violence of such an attack – expressed with savage strokes to the horse’s mane and the inky shadows in the background – was a physical expression of the intense emotions Delacroix sought to bring to life on canvas.”

French Post-Impressionist painter Henri Rousseau was clearly influenced by nature and his animal subject's natural habitat – as can be seen in his famous series of jungle scenes, the first of which was Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised!), 1891. Painted in oil on canvas in a vibrant, primitive, yet detailed
and textured style, it depicts a tiger preparing to pounce on his prey. Tension is built by the use of a lightning strike in the background which illuminates the tiger – serving to highlight the animal's ferocious nature and glorious might.

Bronze sculpture Turtles by Hamish Mackie is an astutely observed piece depicting a bale of turtles swimming downwards through branches of seaweed, sculpted to perfectly create the impression of the flowing movement of these aquatic creatures through water.

We have a exceptional range of wildlife sculpture available on our online gallery from artists including Fred Gordon, George Bingham, Gill Parker, Jenna Gearing, Sophie Louise White and William Montgomery.

As well as sculpture, we have work from a host of talented wildlife artists in our portfolio of original paintings, and limited edition prints in a wide variety of styles.

Aaminah Snowdon, Bev Davies and Becky Mair have an lively and dynamic take on artistic animal representation, with a collection boasting wildlife favourites like foxes, hares, and birds, as well as domestic animals.

For a more traditional observation of the animal world, take a look at the textured and detailed art of Anthony Dobson. His collection includes majestic stags in forest glades, fox head studies, bounding hares and eager working-dogs.

Internationally acclaimed artist Dominique Salm is one for those who like a walk on the wild side – her striking naturalistic large-scale watercolour portraits capturing her tiger, ostrich and giraffe subjects in all their presence, grace and charm. Her dazzling limited edition print Cheek to Cheek comprises of a row of zebras which, although realistic in portrayal, has been cleverly composed - using the animals' stripes to create a dramatic and mesmerising effect.

If vibrancy in art is something that appeals to you, take a look at the vivid rainbow watercolours of Dorset artist Jake Winkle. From galloping horses and hares, to zany zebras and cheeky cheetahs his influence spans the animal kingdom and is portrayed in vibrant splashes of colour.

London-based artist Josie Appleby's deep understanding of horses is apparent in her equine studies, in which she merges traditional and contemporary techniques, from the loose and ethereal style of her charcoal drawings – like Unheard Memories – to the dramatic and atmospheric oil on canvas compositions, such as Intuitive Instinct.

Contemporary artist Nicky Litchfield creates delightful pastel drawings on softly coloured board, with traditional themes of rural animals, dogs and livestock at the core of her subject matter. Muted colours are balanced by lively texture and line, to create pieces brimming with personality.

Visit our online gallery where you will find lots of animal and wildlife themed artwork which perfectly pays homage to our World's wonderful creatures.

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