Six Pictures of Animals that Speak to Me / by Chris Hall

1.  Unknown:  Lascaux Cave Painting.  There is something very primal and eternal in these paintings.  Discovered in Southwest France in 1940, the paintings are estimated to be 17,300 years old.  Represented are horse, bison, cattle, stag, feline, bird, bear, rhinoceros, and human.  Constellations are also painted.  The work is often reported to be a mystical ritual in order to improve future hunting endeavors.  What appeals to me is the mystery, that we will never truly know the intent of the artist, that, and the formal values, the color and the texture of the rock wall surface.

2.  Francisco Goya – The Dog (Sinking in Quicksand), c 1820.  One of Goya’s so called Black Paintings, The Dog is a whimsical work and piece of black humor.  It is somehow sad and humorous at the same time.  The formal qualities of the work are also an inspiration for my own work:  the limited palette, the large open sky, and the simplicity of the composition.  I love this piece.

3.  Edwin Landseer – Man Proposes, God Disposes, 1864.  Consisting of two polar bears, one tearing apart a ship wreck while the other chomps down on a human ribcage, this work shocked the public upon its release, who were still mourning the loss of the Franklin Expedition, sent to explore the Northwest Passage. The painting was later deemed to be cursed, reputed to make people who stare at it too long mad.  It currently resides in an examination room in the University of London.  They cover the painting up with a curtain during testing.

4. Henri Rousseau – Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised!), 1891.  The ferocity of the tiger, surprised by the tropical storm, the streaks of lightning in the sky, painted in Rousseau’s unique style.  It is a charming painting and it never fails to put a smile on my face.  It always reminds me of the last lines of Wallace Stevens’ poem, “Disillusionment of Ten O’Clock”:

 Only, here and there, an old sailor,
 Drunk and asleep in his boots,
 Catches tigers
 In red weather.

5.  Winslow Homer – The Fox Hunt, 1893.  This sad painting of struggling fox in the dead of a winter’s landscape, being hunted by crows, it breaks my heart everytime.

6.  Joan Miro – Dog Barking at the Moon, 1926.  Ah, this silly little piece is wonder to behold.  The dark of night, the mysterious moon, the whimsical dog, and the strange ladder going up into the sky all make for modern masterpiece.   It is nice abstract antidote to the hyper realism seen in Miro’s other Surrealist compatriots, Magritte and Dali.