Animal Beauty: The fatal attraction -FINISHED!!

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Reviewed on 03/20/2012 | No Reviews

Photo: © MAP, © Service presse Réunion des musées nationaux – Grand Palais / Agence Bulloz

Beauty or ugliness? This is the question here. Is a rat inevitably repulsive? And why do we still think that the peacock is the king of birds? From tomorrow on, the Grand Palais is showing an extraordinary exhibition about “Animal Beauty” bringing together 120 masterpieces of Western Art from the Renaissance to the present day.

The Tierstück

It was actually in the Renaissance that the naturalist representation of animals really took off. The German artist Albrecht Durer invented what he called the Tierstück, literally “animal piece”. From then on, the animal, wild or domesticated never left the canvas.

Albrecht Durer's rhinoceros Photo: © Bibliothèque nationale de France

In five chapters and through a set of major works, the exhibition not only looks at the relationships that artists have developed with animals, but also shows how our relationship towards nature and its creatures have constantly changed. Why did the horse always represent the upmost perfection? Why do we still consider the peacock as the king of birds and pinnacle of beauty as the French Buffon described it? Why did others never seem to be a valuable subject? How did prejudgement form our gaze? And then, why did the dog  only earn the right to its own portrait in the middle of the 16th century?

A humble subject

Emmanuelle Héran, curator of the show, told the story of a Goya painting showing a cat fight. When it was discovered, it was soon evident that Goya had madea kind of template for a tapestry. Curiously and, until today, some art historians still claim that this painting cannot possibly be a true Goya. Why? Because “a great painter like him would never have painted such a humble subject”.

Spiders and toads

Beauty or ugliness? The answer is obvious. Even if the representation of animals was, for a long time, considered as a dubious subject in art history, the 120 masterpieces brought together here, show you the soul of the animals. Some are breathtakingly beautiful, others just very touching, others again will not easily earn your sympathy : Louise Bourgesoise adored spiders; Picasso was very much into toads. The beast is not always the beauty.

Grand Palais
Entrance: Clemenceau
Place Clemenceau
75008 Paris
Métro: Franklin Rossevelt   or Champs-Elysées-Clemenceau 
Open everyday except Tuesday from 10am-8pm, late opening Wednesday until 22pm, closed 1st of Mai
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