art and animals
In Plastic Arts, the theme of animals is recurrent, since the dawn of humanity, due to the constant interest of Man in representing him due to cultural, historical, social, religious, scientific and ethical factors. In order to understand how the society of each respective era approached animal representation, in this article we go through the creative and social terms, from the beginning of humanity to the present day.
Animals in Art: Prehistory to the Middle Ages
Artistic representation was one of the first forms, before writing, of human expression about everyday acts. The first representations with simple lines, conceived on the ceilings and walls of caves, date to approximately 35,000 BC Since that time, there has been a constant persistence of the figure of animals in the visual arts, with paintings of bison, deer, horses and oxen with black outlines. and with bright colors. These portraits describe the Human's relationship with animals, until then intensely marked by hunting and survival.
With the growth of several civilizations - Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Greeks and Romans - that domesticated the animals, this relationship develops and certain animals have the purpose of instilled companionship. From the representations found about these civilizations, it is possible to understand the thought of glorification, humanization or humiliation of the Human in relation to these animals. On the other hand, in the ideology of the Middle Ages, marked by the religious values of glorifying the divine and the supernatural, animals found themselves in this world only to serve humans. Thus, in works of painting, sculpture or even architecture, these beings are represented as serving either as food, transport, protection or transport.
The Representation of Animals in Art in the Modern Age
If in the Middle Ages this concept was incorporated into religious foundations, in the Modern Age it was justified by rationalist philosophies. Although there is an opening in thinking with Humanism, animals continue to be seen as a species subordinate to the desires and needs of human beings, be they moral or aesthetic. Albrecht Dürer faithfully portrayed various animals such as the hare, walrus, crab and rhinoceros, as well as Leonardo Da Vinci who drew horses, dogs and cats. Pets, particularly dogs and cats, were portrayed in a domestic setting, demonstrating the appreciation for them. The importance given to pet dogs in paintings by Ticiano and Velázquez stands out as a symbol of loyalty and protection.
Dwarf with a Dog by Diego Velázquez
Animals in Contemporary Art
With the industrial revolution, it was like this, attesting to the insistent taste and interest of the human in the animal, due to the increase of domestic animals in the more fortunate classes. In contemporary times, we see the growing concern for animal welfare, with the emergence of movements for the rights of these beings. With this new thinking, we see what the appreciation for animals can change in Contemporary Art. The humanization of beings, with representations of animals acting as human beings, is increasingly common in 20th century works of art, with artists such as Marc Chagall , Paula Rego , Júlio Pomar , among others. Others chose to address these issues with the animal itself as an element of the artwork. This is the case of the performance “ I love America and America Loves me ”, in which the artist Joseph Beuys lives with a coyote, a species native to North America, in order to reconcile modern humanity with nature.
In the same way, Bordalo II has been creating sculptures with abandoned objects, such as plates, tires, doors in an expressive way, a critique of consumerism, offering a sustainable solution. By using these objects, the artist offers them a new life, a new aesthetic and communicative function. In his animal-shaped sculptures, he thus represents an image of nature that cries out about the need for socio-ecological sustainability.
On the other hand, there are also creations about the death of animals. This is the case of Damien Hirst's sculptures with a series of works of art in which dead animals (including a shark, a sheep and a cow) are preserved by being dissected. From the various works of art developed over the centuries, from cave paintings about hunting, to portraits of domestic animals, we were able to understand the culture, the relationship and human thoughts in relation to animals.