Friday, 9 June 2017

Artists Inspired by Animals

Blog 23

Since we adopted our first dog in January 1996, our animal companions have not only enriched my life but have also been an inspiration in my creative career. Once we moved into a rural neighbourhood, farm animals and wildlife have been added to the list of animal subject that I have painted.

Animals with their beauty and cuteness, give us a view into a happy life without obligations and regrets. They live for the moment and do not worry about the next day. Paintings and photographs of animals make us remember our own pets, encounters with animals in our life, and our longing for balance in our lives that are often determined by chores and deadlines.

Animals have always fascinated artists. The first cave paintings already showed images of wildlife. However, for a long time animals paintings were not considered serious art because of their lack of creativity even when the were executed with great skill.

When I am thinking of artists who included animals into their artworks, several names come to my mind right away:

George Stubbs: Whistlejacket, via Wikimedia Commons
The English painter George Stubbs is famous for his horse paintings. He is considered one of the best if not the best painter of horses. He paved the way for the acceptance of animal paintings as serious., His painting “Whistlejacket” is a strong example for his mastery.

Albrecht Dürer: Feldhase (Young Hare), via Wikimedia Commons

German artist Albrecht Dürer's studies of animals and plants helped to establish illustrations as fine art. The liveliness of the hare in his painting “A Young Hare” is testimony to the energy and joy Dürer put into the painting.



German painter Franz Marc portrayed many animals in bright primary color, sometimes in a cubist style. He simplified the animals and wanted to express emotion with his use of colours.

Franz Marc: Die kleinen blauen Pferde (The Little Blue Horses), via Wikimedia Commons

Spanish artist Pablo Picasso was a big animal lover and had several animals as pets during his life. The bull is one of the animals that appeared quite often in his art. Often it had symbolic character but Picasso left it to the viewer to interpret his message.

Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dalí used many animals for their the symbolism in his paintings, among them elephants, ants, butterflies, and locusts.

Mexican painter Frida Kahlo de Rivera did not only live with many animals but also included them in many of her self-portraits. 

Canadian painter Alex Colville had a close relationship with his dogs. He enjoyed their companionship, unquestioned loyalty and love. He saw animals as innocent creatures by nature, that only humans could train to be evil. In his paintings, the animals were either shown as men’s close companions or omens of bad things to come.

Canadian painter Robert Bateman is famous for his realistic paintings of wildlife in its natural surroundings. He is a strong supporter for the protection of nature.

Native artists like Canadian painter Norval Morrisseau express the important role animals play in the lives of aboriginal and first nations people in their paintings. The animals do not only provide food for the people but also have spirits similar to people. The goal of many native artists was to keep the stories and traditions of their people alive.

Andy Warhol, one of the leading artists of the pop art, did also have a big heart for animals and created many artworks containing animals as the subject, including a set of rainbow silkscreens that showed the horrifying numbers of near-extinct animals around the world.

When I did research for this blog, I was surprised to see how many animals appeared in paintings of other famous artists. Unfortunately, I am not able to post more pictures of the artworks as they are still secured by copyright.

If you are interested in my portfolio of animals, please go to my website At the moment, I am almost finished with a commission of a ragdoll cat. When I showed the painting to the customer at an earlier stage she was so excited to see her cat on the canvas. This excitement is really contagious and I can hardly wait to deliver the finished painting to her. It will be a moment of joy for both of us. If you are interested in having your pet painted please contact me at

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