Curious Beasts: Animal Prints from the British Museum
This touring exhibition explores our enduring curiosity about the animal world through the beautiful and bizarre imagery found in prints of the 15th to the early 19th centuries in the British Museum’s collection. The exhibition features prints by well known artists including Albrecht Dürer, Francisco de Goya and George Stubbs, alongside lesser known and rarely seen treasures.
These small-scale, easily transported and comparatively affordable prints were accessible to many levels of society and are a fascinating record of early modern imagination and creativity
The exhibition has three main themes:
Allegorical animals: symbolism and story which explores the symbolic significance of creatures and the moral stories that they were used to tell. These are illustrated in religious prints depicting popular biblical stories such as the temptation in the Garden of Eden and Jonah and the whale, and other narrative subjects including classical mythology and fables, proverbs and allegories, political satire and popular beliefs.
Observing animals: natural history studies charts how prints of all kinds of animals, including newly discovered species, played a vital role in the dissemination of information around the world. These observational works provide us with a
fascinating insight into the ways that artists contributed to natural historical knowledge, and show how artists used a range of techniques,including copying the observations (and mistakes) of others, to create ‘naturalistic’ images of animals.
Encountering animals: the intimate and the everyday shows how animals formed an integral part of life in the early modern period through farming and entertainments such as bull-baiting, in noisy, messy and sometimes violent encounters. Exotic creatures also entered everyday life as fashionable accessories and in menagerie exhibits, and were satirized and documented for posterity in turn by printmakers.
The exhibition includes works created through a variety of different printmaking processes including engraving, woodcut, mezzotint, etching and drypoint.
Visitors to the exhibition will be ble to find out about these processes through a demonstration by printer in residence Kate Da’Casto from Leicester Print Workshop before having a go at printmaking themselves.
The exhibition is accompanied by a gift book Curious Beasts: Animal Prints from the British Museum by Alison E. Wright, published by the British Museum Press. Paperback, £9.99.
Saturday 5 October to Sunday 15 December 2013
This exhibition is organised in partnership with the British Museum.
Image: William Dent, The Return to the Political Ark, hand-coloured etching, 1790 © The Trustees of the British Museum