History of Animal Sculpture
Animals have been the subject of artistic expression for centuries. Animals often served as symbols referring to important political figures and religious ideals across art forms, including sculpture in the round and in relief. Lions and bulls in particular symbolized the power and strength of rulers or the civilizations themselves. These motifs were particularly popular in Mesopotamian societies. Christian imagery often included the sacrificial lamb or doves to refer to peace. Other cultures, including ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, combined subjects, creating human and animal sculptures that often depicted mythological scenes and deities. Modern and contemporary artists continued the tradition of depicting animals in sculpture, reinforcing the impact of this timeless subject.
Animal Sculpture Techniques
Artists have rendered animal sculptures in a variety of styles and mediums, ranging from round and relief stone carvings to assemblages composed of found objects. Early sculptural representations of animals tend to focus on conveying realistic details like natural muscular definition, fine lines in feathers and fur, and proper anatomy. These sculptures paralleled other artistic movements over time. An Impressionist sculptor’s approach to fauna, for example, would focus on the overall form of the animal but eschew these small details, and more abstract artists would further simplify the form of the animal. Artists have also experimented with the materials used to create these representations. Earlier examples were made mostly of stone, but over time artists turned to bronze, glass, and unconventional materials like used tires and found objects.
Artists Known For Animal Sculpture
Early examples of animal sculptures include the colossal Assyrian lamassus, or winged human-lion hybrids, that served as gate protectors. The Assyrians also practiced realistic animal relief carvings to produce narratives like the “Ashurbanipal Hunting Lions” series (650 BC). Early civilizations often sculpted animals in relation to the human form. The ancient Greek “Calf-bearer” (560 BCE), for example, depicts a young male with a calf wrapped around his neck, and the Etruscan “Capitoline Wolf” (13th-15h century) is a bronze rendition of a she-wolf feeding two human babies, inspired by the creation story of Rome. Pablo Picasso created “Bull’s Head” (1942) out of a bike seat and handlebars he found. Edgar Degas is known for “Horse Clearing an Obstacle” (1887-1888) and a series of horse sculptures depicting the animal in movement. Polish artist Marta Klonowska creates glass animal sculptures from shards of colorful glass. Other artists known for creating animal sculptures include Joan Miro, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Dame Elisabeth Frink, Yong Ho Ji, Robert Clatworthy, Henry Moore, Angus Fairhurst, Ben Foster, and Jeff Koons.