LONDON.- Animal Farm: Beastly Muses and Metaphors, brings together 56 works by leading Modern and Contemporary artists to explore the influential, but often overlooked, role of the animal as artists muse. From Pablo Picasso, Lucian Freud and Lynn Chadwick, to Adrian Ghenie, Polly Morgan and Gavin Turk, the exhibition traces a history of the animal as inspiration, companion, model and metaphor in the art of our time.
Through the history of human artistic expression, animals have served as a metaphor for our own intrinsic human characteristics. With such a primordial connection, it is unsurprising that some of the greatest artists of modern times have used animals as their muses, often returning time and time again to the same creatures in an almost compulsive study. For many of the artists in the exhibition, the animals of their attention ultimately act as metaphors for deeper artistic explorations: mortality, memory, identity, religion and the human body.
Lucian Freud: Im really interested in people as animals. Part of my liking to work from them naked is for that reason
I like people to look as natural and as physically at ease as animals, as Pluto my whippet
Lucian Freud, Pluto Aged Twelve, 2000
Lucian Freud was inseparable from his whippet named Pluto. From when he first acquired the pet in 1988, until Plutos death in 2003, the gangly whippet was a common presence in the artists work. This etching, Pluto Aged Twelve, is an affectionate portrait of his beloved companion.
William Wegman Twister, 1988 Sold, 1988
Another remarkable set of canine portraits are William Wegmans iconic Weimaraner photographs. The American artists two Weimaraners, Man Ray and Fay Ray, were specifically trained as models for their photographic sessions. Wegman captured the enigmatic, deadpan presence of his companions using a rare, extremely large format, Polaroid camera, with film plates that measure 20 by 24 inches. Four original Wegman polaroids are included in the exhibition.
Lynn Chadwick Beast Alerted, 1990
Chadwick welded iron, bronze and steel into expressionistic, geometrical works inspired by human and animal forms. Beast I was one of the works which helped him to win the International Prize for Sculpture at the 1956 Venice Biennale. He revisited this series in the late 1980s and early 1990s, of which the present is an important example.
Adrien Ghenie Stigmata 3, 2011
The Romanian-born artist has established a reputation as one of the most exciting painters working today. Ghenies reimagining of Van Goghs Sunflowers sold for a record breaking £3.1m at Sothebys, London in February 2016. His work is complex, both in design and concept, comprising of multi-layered pictorial structures, laden with hidden references.
Gavin Turk Pandy Warhol (Blue Bear), 2014
Turks iridescent Pandy Warhol paintings were produced specifically for the exhibition Here Today, which was staged to support the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Not only does the present work appropriate Andy Warhols signature silkscreen style, but can also be seen as homage to the Pop artists own Endangered Species series.