Wildlife art prints can be found almost anywhere nowadays. There are several museums that specialize in exhibiting artworks based on wildlife. But how and when did it started? According to history, wildlife art started thousands of years ago but it has gained popularity just recently. Many archeologists saw carvings on ancient caves in various places around the world. These are evidences that men used to dwell with wild animals.
Most cave art during the prehistoric age were found in Africa, France, America, and Spain. In Africa, wild animals like antelopes, mammoths, and tigers were the common subjects of wildlife paintings. An image of a wild horse was one of the most well-known examples of ancient wildlife cave art. It was found in Lascaux, France. Similarly, another one was found in Grotte Chauvet in France. It also shows a painting of a wild horse, along with other large animals like bison, buffalo, rhinoceros, mammoths, and lions.
They also found an ancient painting of a reindeer in Cueva de las Monedas, a cave in Spain. Archeologists believe that this cave art was done during the last ice age. On the other hand, there are more wildlife art in caves in America. Some animals involved were sheep, goat, rabbits, deer, lynx, and puma, as well as aquatic animals like sardine, tuna, and turtles. Birds like pelican and eagles were popular subjects too. Wildlife art is the most popular kind of cave art, as it always depicts survival and hunting – the kind of life that the ancient people had.
However, things changed when the classical period entered. People become more focused on human subjects, reality of life, and the society. Religious paintings were also the ones reigning during that time. Wildlife art prints suddenly vanished. It was only revived as animals were used as mythological creatures. For instance, Egyptian art and culture clearly shows the symbolic use of animals. They even used animals for religious purposes, as depicted in their paintings and sculptures.
Chinese art also used wildlife subjects for mythology, but they still kept pure wildlife art which involves birds like swan, sparrow, and ducks. This popularity of animals in mythology somehow continued till the Renaissance period, as Pegasus, a winged-horse is depicted in mythology.
Wildlife art flourished once more during the 18th and 19th century, after more painters and artists during the Baroque and Renaissance period slowly opened their minds and hearts to wildlife art. Some of the well-known artists from 18th to 19th century are Mark Catesby, Francois Le Vaillant, Georges Cuvier, Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, and Edward Hicks. All of them painted birds, fishes, and other animals but within different context and meaning. Some painted wildlife scenes through religious context, just like Edward Hicks; others painted species of fish for biological studies. But all of them contributed in making wildlife art a part of the natural history. At the same time, it became a great business investment to art collectors.
Once again, there were big changes as contemporary art begun in the 20th century. Impressionism, realism, modernism, and expressionism influenced wildlife artists like George Braque, Franz Marc, and Walter Crane. Mythology was back in Edmund Dulac’s creation, “The firebird”. Artists during this period painted animals and insects like butterflies, foxes, monkeys, and red deer, and they used wildlife art in a more symbolic and artistic manner.
In the present time, more and more artists intend to use wildlife as their subject. Though it is difficult to paint animals since you can’t make them stay for long, it is still a popular subject nowadays. Most homes have wildlife art prints hanging on their walls. It has a high value in today’s market and it makes a great decoration at home.