Academic Session 10: Reading 2013

39th Annual Conference and Bookfair
University of Reading
11-13 April 2013

The Art History of the Animal

Session Convenor

Alastair Harden, University of Reading,

Animal imagery has always been prominent in the visual arts, from cave-paintings to Damien Hirst’s £10.3 million The Golden Calf. Non-human animals populate prehistoric European, Asian and African art, as well as the canon of Classical art; animals gathered powerful symbolic force in the art of the Middle Ages and throughout the Renaissance; and subsequently societies’ cultural development made use of animal imagery in a variety of ways throughout the modern and postmodern periods. However, art history has been traditionally anthropocentric in outlook, casting the ‘grand narratives’ in terms of the evolution of the human form and the techniques of pictorial narration, to the extent that most modern histories of art can arguably be said to have a significant anthropocentric bias which does little justice either to the wealth and variety of extant animal imagery or to the demonstrable popularity and persistence of animal images in the collective cultural consciousness of critics and viewers.

This panel explores the art history of the animal primarily in Europe from the 17th century to the present, examining several media from a variety of perspectives with the hope of opening new avenues in the analysis of animal imagery and presenting a fresh look at the ways in which humans regard animals as demonstrated in visual media.


Sophie Mesplède (Université Rennes 2) Beauty and Morality: Animals in 18th-century art writing

Andrew Patrizio (University of Edinburgh) Douglas Gordon’s Animal Systems

Nathan Timpano (University of Miami) ‘How does a horse see the world?’ New perspectives on Franz Marc’s animals

Kate Grandjouan (Courtauld Institute of Art) ‘A Fox without shall be a Fox within’: Satire, animality and the French

Fiona V. Salvesen Murrell (University of Aberdeen) Imaging the Beast in Britain c.1800–1845; The livestock portraits of William Shiels and his contemporaries, a competitive business

Fae Brauer (University of New South Wales) Modernist Monkey Business: Animal colonies, symbiotic evolution and ‘Le douanier’ Rousseau’s primates

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