Thursday, July 18, 2013

Art I'm Looking At: Artful Animals at the Legion of Honor (July 17, 2013)

Next to the "Impressionists on the Water" show at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco is a small but engaging exhibit of works on paper depicting animals, drawn from the collection of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts. "Artful Animals, Part 2" (I wasn't aware of Part 1, but apparently there was one) includes a wide variety of works from around 1500 to the present, all taking animals as their subject.

The show is small--occupying a single room--but there is some good work here. I particularly enjoyed Whales Stranded at Ter Hyde (1577), an engraving of beached sperm whales by Flemish artist Johannes Wierix, apparently an account of an actual beaching incident; a hand-colored etching of a hedgehog by Irish artist Peter Mazell (after Peter Pailou) from a 1766 Thomas Pennant publication The British Zoology; and a Barn Owl print by Robert Havell (after Audubon; detail shown here). I didn't exactly understand the relationship between the Havell print and the well known Audubon prints from his The Birds of America (perhaps Havell printed his own edition copying some of the Audubon works?), but a striking image. Also of interest were a number of Japanese prints showing famous kabuki actors of the day depicted as fish or other animals, and I enjoyed seeing Beth Van Hoesen's droopy-eared rabbit, a very familiar image as my father had a reproduction of it, but I had never seen an actual print before. Well worth a quick look. The show runs through October 13.

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