The representation of animals in the history of art

A representação dos animais na história da arte
Art and Animals
In the Plastic Arts, the theme of animals is recurrent, since the beginning of humanity due to the constant interest of Man in representing them 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 creative and social terms, from the beginning of humanity to the present day.

Bordalo II | P55 Magazine | P55 - The Art PlatformPhoto credit Flickr Jaime Silva

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 from 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 relationship between Humans and animals, until then intensely marked by hunting and survival.
With the growth of various civilizations - Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Greeks and Romans - who domesticated animals, this relationship developed, passing certain animals to have the instilled purpose of 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.In contrast, in the ideology of the Middle Ages, marked by religious values of glorifying the divine and the supernatural, animals were in this world only to serve humans. Thus, in works of painting, sculpture or even architecture, these beings are represented serving either as food, transport, protection or transport.

Albrecht Dürer | P55 - Magazine | P55 - The Art PlatformAlbrecht Durer

The Representation of Animals in Art in the Modern Age
If in the Middle Ages this concept was incorporated in religious foundations, in the Modern Age it was justified by rationalist philosophies. Although there is an opening in thought with Humanism, animals continue to be seen as a subordinate species to the desires and needs of human beings, whether 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 given to them. It denotes the importance given to pet dogs, in the paintings of Titian and Velázquez, as a symbol of fidelity and protection.

Diego Velazquez | P55 - Magazine | P55 - The Art PlatformDwarf 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 humans in animals, due to the increase in domestic animals in the more fortunate classes. In contemporary times we see the growth of concern for animal welfare, with the emergence of movements for the rights of these beings. With this new thinking, we see how the appreciation for animals changes in Contemporary Art. The humanization of beings, with representations of animals acting like human beings, is increasingly common in 20th century artworks, with artists such as Marc Chagall, Paula Rego, Júlio Pomar, between others. Others chose to address these issues with the animal itself as an element of the artwork. It's a performance case.I love America and America Loves me”, in which artist Joseph Beuys lives with a coyote, a species native to North America, in order to reconcile modern humanity with nature.


Júlio Pomar | P55 Magazine | P55 - The Art PlatformJúlio Pomar

In the same thought,Bordalo II has created sculptures with abandoned objects, such as sheets, tires, doors in order to express a critique of consumerism, offering a sustainable solution. By using these objects, the artists offer them a new life, a new aesthetic and communicative function. Thus, in his sculptures in the form of an animal, he represents an image of nature that screams about the need for sustainability socio-ecological. 

Bordalo II | P55 Magazine | P55 - The Art PlatformBordalo II. Photo Credit Barbara Picci

On the other hand, there are also creations about the death of animals. This is the case with the sculptures ofDamien Hirst with a series of works of art in which dead animals (including a shark, a sheep and a cow) are preserved while being dissected. From the various works of art developed over the centuries, from paintings in caves about hunting, to portraits of domestic animals, we were able to understand the culture, the relationship and human thoughts in relation to animals.

Damien Hirst | P55 Magazine | P55 - The Art PlatformDamien Hirst

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