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Beautiful Paintings of Animals from Cats to Fish

Updated on September 17, 2014

From animals the famous Lascaux cave paintings to the crabs of Vincent van Gogh

Animals always have been present in art. From the early days of mankind, when we painted horses,bulls and antelopes on the cave walls up to the modern computer age. But although the animals in the cave paintings where the main subject and painted with skill, it seems that animals in paintings and art slowly got the rule of the underdog so to speak. Animals where a lesser subject to paint about then lets say Jezus, God or portraits, still lives, landscapes, or abstract art. The animal became less important in the arts, although animals have always been important in our lives. From the famous artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh or the contemporaries like Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon, they all made paintings with animals, but seldom as the main subject.

Painters of The Caves - Lascaux: Movement, Space and Time

two crabs Vincent van Gogh
two crabs Vincent van Gogh

Modern art and animals

Although the theme of animals is not as great as landscapes or crucifixions, there are still a lot of painting made by famous artists. Some times as a still life, as show here . The two crabs of Vincent van Gogh must have been bought on the market, and I bet Vincent had a lovely and deserved dinner after he painted the still life of the two crabs. He also painted a bat in his early days, a strange choice.

Picasso often painted a bull and found his forms in molding the animal into his own particular style. So he did with goats. There is a famous litho of Picasso where he starts with drawing a realistic bull, but after changing the litho several times he converts the bull into a abstraction of a bull, almost a single line.

A famous painting that comes to mind is The Mandrill of Oscar Kokoschka, a vivid and brutal painting with lots of color and strong brush strokes. Kokoshka really captured the essence of the Mandrill in the painting. Strong, present, and colorful.

Animals and there symbolic meaning - The majestic Lion and the holy fish

The Sleeping Gypsy - Henri Rousseau
The Sleeping Gypsy - Henri Rousseau

Animals and Paintings

Animals always have been the stars of myths and stories. Dragons, lions, unicorns and butterflies. We gave them spacial powers, sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad. The White rhino for instance is almost on the brink of extinction because of the superstitious belief that the horn is a potent fertility medicine!!!

The dragons and unicorns are already extinct as you know ;-) But in many paintings, animals are painted for symbolic reasons. The fish representing Christ, The lion often representing royalty and the Eagle became a symbol for America as the Bear is for Russia.

Symbolism always played a big role in history of painting. You see the lions and dolphins on the mosaic walls of the roman empire, The Greek gods turned themselves into animals, Like when Zeus kidnapped Europe, he did so in the form of a bull. Remember the snake and the dove in the bible stories. We used animals as symbols to explain abstract ideas like proud, wisdom, falsehood, peace or cunning.

Art and Animals - relationship between humans - art and animals

Ando Hiroshige
Ando Hiroshige

A carp theme as a woodcut beutifull art by Ando Hiroshige

Throughout the ages humans always have kept animals. Cats to keep the mouse and rats away from the harvest storage, Dogs for guidance and to guard. Horses and Donkeys for heavy labor. We do love animals and some of them became over the years domesticated. We love our pets, and many artist too, they found it impossible not to give them a place in there artworks.

This woodcut from Ando Hiroshige shows us a jumping carp, showing his power and elegance. Carps always have been in high regard in Japan, and like goldfish they are treated very respectfully. No wonder because a well bred carp can cost as much as $100,000. Top breeders are treated like stars and go all over the world giving lectures on their techniques.

Vincent van Gogh was influenced by the woodprints of Ando Hiroshige and made several copies. around 1900 the japanes arts became well known in Europe and the new style Art Nouveau, or Jugendstil in Germany, was influenced by him and by Japanese art in general.

Leonardo da Vinci - Lady with an Armine

Leonardo da Vinci - Lady with an Armine
Leonardo da Vinci - Lady with an Armine

Francisco Goya - Boy with a pet magpie

Francisco Goya - Boy with a pet magpie
Francisco Goya - Boy with a pet magpie

I've put a collection of animal paintings together. If you are looking for a specific animal in a painting, post it and I'll try to find it.

I hope you enjoy the paintings as much as I do.

What's your favourite animal ? - favorite pets in paintings

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      miketurnage0705 5 years ago

      My favorite animal are horses. I love the way they've been painting. Always wild and free. Just amazing