“Please do not feed!” is the title of a major exhibition on the artistic portrayal of animals. The exhibition is being staged in the new wing of Villa Vauban and will showcase paintings, prints and sculptures spanning 900 years of art history. Exhibits from the museum’s own collection and numerous international loan items include works by Adriaen van der Velde, James Ward, Eugène Delacroix and Marc Chagall. In line with the chronological focus of the museum’s own collection, the exhibition places particular emphasis on the multi-faceted diversity of animal portrayals that developed from the 17th to the 20th century, a period during which artistic interest in the relationship between man and animal assumed unprecedented proportions. At the heart of the exhibition are depictions of farm and companion animals, which introduce exhibition visitors to a wide range of artistic and stylistic concepts, while also illustrating the related debate surrounding the underlying social changes of this period of time, which encompasses four centuries. The exhibition starts with the tradition of animal portrayal in art. During the Middle Ages, the animal was still widely cast bearing symbolic attributes of faith, from the demonic all the way to the sacred. It was subjected to the Christian interpretation of the relationship between humankind and the rest of the Creation. The mid-16th century saw a rise in popularity of so-called paradise landscapes and Noah’s ark themes, with the emphasis above all on portraying as many animals of as many species as possible, depicting them in characteristic views and stances.

It was not until the 17th century that art discovered the animal as a natural being. This is when, in particular in Dutch and Flemish art, the “Tierstück” (animal piece) broke away from the religious and mythological painting traditions to become an independent genre. To illustrate this development, the exhibition features, among others, works by Roelant Savery (1576-1639), Adriaen van Utrecht (1599-1652) and Samuel van Hoogstraten (1627-1678), as well as genre scenes by David Teniers the Younger, in which animals assume human roles.

During the 18th century, animal art enjoyed great popularity in France and Great Britain. The significance of the animal world for courtly society is highlighted in paintings by Alexandre-François Desportes (1661-1743) and Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1686-1755). Examples of British animal art include works by artists James Ward (1769-1859) and George Stubbs (1724-1806).

During the 19th century, the appeal and significance of the animal painting lay in its heterogeneity. These works were created in the context of the gradual shift from traditional farming to an agricultural industry and illustrate the perspective of both an urban society and a rising rural tourism. Animals were no longer the accessories of human environments, but were portrayed as actual beings, capable of grief, pain and joy. An example of this is England’s golden age of dog painting from 1750 to 1850, as seen in works by Edwin Landseer (1802-1873), one of the most renowned and successful animal painters of the 19th century.

The animal representations are complemented by works from the plastic arts and printed works, which include a display from the museum’s own collection of Art Deco figurines by Villeroy & Boch Septfontaines. The final part of the animal exhibition showcases the 20th and 21st centuries and features, among others, an impressionist work by Heinrich von Zügel (1850-1941) and a gouache painting created in Paris in 1912 by Marc Chagall (1887-1985).


5 October > 19 January 2014