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"Animals Real and Imagined: Artists Books from the Permanent Collection"
1999-06-19 until 1999-08-29
California Palace of the Legion of Honor
San Francisco, CA,
USA United States of America
The animal kingdom inhabits the Legion of Honors Logan Gallery of Illustrated Books in an exhibition that explores four centuries of artists interpretations of creatures ranging from insects to elephants. Animals Real and Imagined brings together 19 artists books that celebrate, illustrate, and interpret the animal world. From exquisitely detailed scientific etchings and engravings by artists of the Renaissance and baroque to the whimsical illustrations of Walter Crane, Grandville, and Alexander Calder, the works in this exhibition reflect the unique visions of animals, both real and imagined from a diverse group of artists.
The illustrated books selected for display in Animals Real and Imagined span a period of exactly 400 years. The earliest work in the exhibition is a 1592 edition of engravings depicting flora, fauna, and insects by the Flemish artist Jacob Hoefnagel - the newest volume on view is the Arion Press edition of playwright David Mamets American Buffalo from 1992, which incorporates a real buffalo nickel in its cover.
Twelve of the books on display depict real animals - that is, the animals are portrayed in a naturalistic or realistic manner, regardless of the artists style. In this category are works such as Richard Hookes celebrated 1665 treatise Micrographia, which records life as observed under
the scrutiny of an early microscope, Hoefnagels volume of detailed engravings, created when the artist was just 17 years old, and the painstakingly detailed 18th-century equine anatomical renderings of renowned English animal painter George Stubbs.
Also among the real animals are 20th-century works like George Dubys 1911 woodcut LEléphant, from Guillaume Apollinaires Le Bestiaire ou Cortege dOrphee (The Bestiary or Cortege of Orpheus), and Picassos etching Les grenouilles (The Frogs) published in the artists book Picasso eaux-fortes originales pour les textes de Buffon (Picassos Original Etchings for Buffons Text) in 1942. Although these renderings are decidedly more stylized and modern in there appearance, they are nonetheless faithful in their realistic portrayal of their subjects.
The remaining books in the exhibition depict imaginary animals. This category, according to exhibition curator Robert Flynn Johnson, includes not only fantastic imaginary creatures, but also animals behaving in extraordinary ways. In this group are works such as the series of colorful engravings for the nursery rhyme Old Mother Hubbard by Walter Crane, a leading illustrator and designer of the Arts and Crafts movement - Grandvilles anthropomorphized Family of Beetles (Famille de Scarabées, 1829) from Les Metamorphoses du Jour (The Metamorphosis of the Day) - Alexander Calders line block illustrations for a 1931 volume of Aesops Fables that echo his famous and innovative wire sculptures - and a strikingly avant-garde revolutionary-era Soviet childrens book in which pistol-brandishing mice menace cats, capitalists, and other enemies of the Bolshevik state.