Thursday, August 5, 2010

Animals at the Barnes

Fittingly, for a blog about animals, this post is an overview of animals in art -- the art, that is, at the Barnes Collection in Merion, PA. By now, probably everyone who has a nodding acquaintance with art knows of the Barnes, so we won't go into all that here (except to recommend the movie "Art of the Steal," the sad story of the Barnes' undoing).

On a recent day trip to the Barnes, I decided that, among zillions of other things to see, I'd look for animals in the art. Although often distracted, I did find enough animals represented to cause me to wonder whether Dr. Barnes actively liked animals, and animals in art, or whether they simply came with the territory.

Henri Rousseau probably checked in with the most animals in his work there --unsurprisingly, since he is known for his jungle scenes. His menagerie included a monkey, a bear and (in a more domestic setting) a rabbit having a meal. The bear, shown towering over a nude, was being shot in the back by a slit-eyed man hiding in the underbrush. So the nude would be safe -- or would she?

Two figures with goats; horses of tragedy by De Chirico; Utrillo's baby dog or dog baby -- anyway, a rendering of his black and white companion at ease; Bonnard's image of a woman and her dog at the table. At least two cats figured in pictures. A sinuous black cat stretched up to look into a white bathtub ("Bath tub and cat" [c. 1944], a reverse painting on glass by Angelo Pinto, 1908-1994) and finally and more traditionally, a woman held a cat in her arms.

No comments: