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You are hereHarvey-LeeHomeHarvey-LeeCatalogues - Main Introduction Harvey-LeeCats & Other Creatures


Cats and Other Creatures, Elizabeth Harvey-LeeA selection of artists’ prints of Animals, thematic or incidental,
from the 15th – 20th centuries

Mankind’s intimate relation to the animal kingdom is celebrated in printed images from the invention of printmaking. There seems to be a natural rapport between some printmakers and animals, and an obvious pleasure in their depiction of them.

Animals appear frequently in old master prints, particularly in regards to their symbolic significance. The Bible, especially such Genesis stories as the Creation, The Fall from the Paradise Garden, and Noah’s Ark, supplied artists with themes rich in opportunity for depicting animals. Specific animals became associated with particular saints and evangelists, and were used as their identifying attributes.
St Jerome is usually accompanied by his lion while St Mark, St Luke, and St John are respectively accompanied or represented by a winged lion, an ox and a eagle.

Similarly classical myths had many animal associations. Ovid, in his Metamorphosis, collected together tales involving transformation of gods and men into animals. In Aesop’s Fables (as later in those of La Fontaine) animal protagonists point the moral.

Personification of abstract concepts and moral qualities are also frequently depicted in conjunction with their symbolically appointed animals, as are the signs of the Zodiac. Heraldry made much use of animals.

With the exception of Dürer’s remarkable woodcut of the Rhinoceros (an animal he knew only from someone else’s sketch and a verbal description in a letter), it is only towards the very end of the 16th century and beginning of the 17th that animals began to be treated as the subjects of prints in their own right. Jacques de Gheyn’s Great Lion was engraved about 1590, though it probably retains a symbolic element. Court menageries provided models for lions, tigers, leopards and other exotic imports. One of the earliest examples of an encyclopaedic series of different animals and birds, by the Flemish engraver Adriaen Collaert, reveals a not so hidden agenda in the secondary theme of hunting. A few decades later, in Paris c1650, Albert Flamen produced several more straight-forwardly informative series of Different sorts of Fresh Water Fish  and Different sorts of  Sea Fish, posed in attractive appropriate landscapes and coastal scenes. At a similar time in Holland Paulus Potter established native farm animals in landscape as a new genre, which was immediately taken up by fellow Dutch etchers and found a ready market in the newly independent Protestant Netherlands.

In general artists in northern Europe always showed a greater interest in depicting the natural world than did those south of the Alps.

Throughout the subsequent centuries some artists continued to present animals metaphorically, allegorically, and symbolically, but the emphasis was on animal portraits. In the early 20th century British etching boom a number of artists specialised in etchings of animals or birds, and were Fellows of the Royal Zoological Society rather than, or addition to, the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers. However, even among these specialists, sympathetic humour was also a noticeably important element.

Through a very wide range of animals, some eighty-seven different species are portrayed in the selection of one hundred and eighty prints offered here. Prints of horses (28), dogs (26) and cats (41) predominate, accounting for nearly half that total. As man’s closest and most interdependent animal companions this is perhaps not surprising.

Cats and Other Creatures, Elizabeth Harvey-LeeHorses and dogs were valued as subject matter early on. Dürer included incidental dogs in his small woodcut scenes of the Passion c1510, without any biblical precedence. In 1597 Goltzius portrayed the young Master de Vries with his dog; and both were of equal importance in the composition.

Dürer engraved his Small and Large Horses  in 1505. Hans Baldung Grien produced a Groom bridling a Horse c1510, influenced by Dürer, and went on to make a notable and inventive series of woodcuts of wild horses in 1534. About 1578 Hieronymous Wierix engraved the Stable of Juan of Austria, a series of fourteen equestrian portraits. The French Romantic lithographers of the early 19th century would make the subject their own.

In contrast, attitudes towards cats in the 16th century were much more ambivalent. Because of their various innate characteristics they were used symbolically to indicate both evil and lust, but were grudgingly valued as pest controllers, if considered greedy thieves in the kitchen. With the exception of Collaert’s engraving of Three Cats & Two Monkeys in a Landscape c1600, which includes a cat hunt in the distance, until the middle of the 17th century figures of cats appear only as incidentals, small footnotes to larger compositions. Wenceslaus Hollar etched a very individual isolated portrait head of a cat in 1646, though it was entitled “It’s a good Cat that doesn’t steal Titbits ”. Cornelis Visscher’s exceptional and iconic large Cat was engraved 1657. But it is only in the 19th century that the cat was finally permitted to move from the kitchen to the drawing room and became a loved family pet, and a subject for art and printmakers.

Fin-de-siècle Paris, in particular, witnessed a surge of artistic enthusiasm for the cat. Steinlen repeatedly returned to the theme after he took up etching in 1898. Foujita, the Japanese artist resident in Paris, published his delightful ten colour etchings and aquatints of Les Chats  in 1929. Several modern and contemporary British printmakers have also produced cat masterpieces.

Untrammelled by the superficialities of changing fashions in dress and hair style which influence the appearance of humans, animals in prints of any period generally look very similar to their modern counterparts. The pleasurable resulting immediacy of recognition and the timelessness of the artist’s response to the animal world make prints on this theme such a delight.

Published summer 2008
72 pages, 183 prints described and illustrated in black & white, with seven in colour on the back cover.

(UK Price: £10, International orders: £15)

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Index of Animals

  • Antelope
  • Ass
  • Bat
  • Bear
  • Beetle
  • Boar
  • Bug
  • Bull
  • Butterfly
  • Camel
  • Cat
  • Cattle
  • Chameleon
  • Cock
  • Cod
  • Crab
  • Deer
  • Dog
  • Donkey
  • Dove
  • Dragon
  • Dragonfly
  • Duck
  • Eagle
  • Eel
  • Elephant
  • Elk
  • Fox
  • Frog
  • Gazelle
  • Giraffe
  • Goat
  • Goldfish
  • Goose
  • Grasshopper
  • Gryphon
  • Gull
  • Hedgehog
  • Hen
  • Heron
  • Hippopotamus
  • Horse
  • Kingfisher
  • Kookaburra
  • Lapwing
  • Leopard
  • Lion
  • Lizard
  • Lobster
  • Magpie
  • Monkey
  • Mouse
  • Mullet
  • Ostrich
  • Otter
  • Owl
  • Panther
  • Parrot
  • Peacock
  • Penguin
  • Pig
  • Pike
  • Porcupine
  • Rabbit
  • Reedbuck
  • Rhinoceros
  • Robin
  • Salmon
  • Scorpion
  • Sea-lion
  • Shad
  • Sheep
  • Snail
  • Snake
  • Sperm Whale
  • Stag Beetle
  • Stickleback
  • Stork
  • Swift
  • Swan
  • Tiger
  • Toad
  • Tortoise
  • Turtle
  • Unicorn
  • Whitethroat
  • Wolf
  • Woodpigeon





Artists included in the catalogue:

  • Ackerman H
  • Anderson S
  • Auerbach A
  • Austen W
  • Austin R S
  • Barry H
  • Barye A
  • Beham S
  • Bella S della
  • Benver M
  • Berchem N
  • Bevan R P
  • Blackadder E
  • Blaker M
  • Blampied E
  • Brightwell L R
  • Bruggen J van der
  • Bruyn N de
  • Buckland Wright J
  • Buhot F
  • Butcher E
  • Cain C W
  • Cameron K
  • Castiglione G B
  • Collaert A
  • Collins  G W
  • Colqhoun R
  • Cook G E
  • Cootwycx J
  • Corinth L
  • Daumier H
  • Delacroix E
  • Delaune E
  • Detmold E J
  • Dixon H
  • Drian
  • Ducq J de
  • Dürer A
  • Exley J R G
  • Fiennes C
  • Flamen A
  • Foujita T L
  • Francillon R
  • Friedrich H
  • Fyt J
  • Géricault T
  • Gheyn J de
  • Goltzius H
  • Goya F
  • Greenhalf R
  • Hackney A
  • Hamblin-Smith M
  • Harris R
  • Henderson S M
  • Hargrave E
  • Hecht J
  • Hiroshige A
  • Hogarth W
  • Horton S
  • Jahn G
  • Kirkpatrick J
  • Klein A
  • Knight L
  • Kolbe C W
  • Kubin A
  • Laer P
  • Lang F
  • Lawson F
  • Legrand L
  • Leighton C
  • Lewis J F
  • Lindsay L
  • Lodge J
  • Manet E
  • Marples G
  • Matisse H
  • McCall J
  • Mesham B
  • Moore H
  • Morgan G
  • Morisot B
  • Morshead A
  • Muller H J
  • Nash P
  • Nicholson W
  • Orovida
  • Osborne J T A
  • Ostade A van
  • Parker A Miller
  • Petterson M
  • Picasso P
  • Potter P
  • Possoz M
  • Reiser D
  • Rembrandt
  • Ridinger J E
  • Robertson D J
  • Robinson S
  • Sadeler A
  • Sadeler J
  • Saenredam J
  • Scargon Y
  • Seaby A W
  • Shirley-Smith R
  • Simon L Prem
  • Smith J
  • Smith P W
  • Soper E
  • Sproule S
  • Stamp E
  • Steinlen T
  • Stokes V
  • Svabinsky M
  • Temple V
  • Tournour M
  • Trevelyan J
  • Tunnicliffe C F
  • Visscher C
  • Vos M de
  • Vosper S C
  • Walklin C
  • Watts M
  • Whiting F
  • Wierix J
  • Wilson S R
  • Wright P
  • Yarrow-Jones R

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