Stampede: Animals in Art brings together works from each curatorial department at the museum to explore how animals have inspired artists throughout history. Animal motifs can be symbolic, allegorical, or simply decorative. Works from the department of architecture, design, and graphics featured in Stampede span three centuries and a variety of media.
Fauna in the Decorative Arts
A textile (from the textile art and fashion collection) from about 1785 depicts animals and human figures representing “the four parts of the world.” Images of elephants, camels, lions, ostriches, and even flying fish situated on islands of local flora make up a toile de Juoy fabric. Toile originated in France around 1760 and typically featured detailed pastoral scenes printed in a single color. In the eighteenth century, this copperplate printed textile would have been used in the home for upholstery or drapery, though this example survives uncut (it is composed of a few widths sewn together). This example incorporates exotic, far-flung animals and depicts a French impression of the human inhabitants of other regions of the world. In the scene of the Americas, one figure wrestles an alligator while elk and monkeys look on.
About a century later, a craftsperson in Indiana built this child’s chest of drawers for Irena M. Bower, whose marquetry portrait graces the back of the chest. Family history attributes the construction of the chest to Bower’s father, probably Thomas J. Bower, a merchant in shop owner in Muncie, Indiana. Besides the portrait, the rest of the chest is covered—front, back, and sides—in silhouettes of animals created from different varieties of wood inlay. The animals include wild animals such as elephants, rhinoceros, monkeys, ostriches, and giraffes. Domesticated animals more typical to the Midwest are also included, such as cattle, horses, birds, and deer. Three rows of inlay on the back of the chest depict horses walking or galloping from left to right. These particular rows of inlay strongly resemble photographs from Eadweard Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion series made between 1884 and 1887.
Muybridge’s popular and widely circulated photos, a few of which can be seen in the gallery near the chest (photo at top), likely inspired the maker of the chest.
Tord Boontje (Dutch, born 1968) designed a series of dinnerware called Table Stories in 2005. Boontje decorated the dinnerware with fanciful depictions of horses, deer, birds, rabbits, and squirrels within swirls of trees, vines, and flowers. The blue and white porcelain plates reference traditional Chinese porcelain first popular in Europe in the seventeenth century. Boontje is one of the later designers in the Neo-Decorative style. One mark of the neo-decorative style is drawing on forms and themes. The neo-decorative style was a reaction to the resurgence of modernism in the 1980s, and was a continuation of postmodernism. The focus of the style was on objet de luxe, luxury materials, and tradition craftsmanship.
Animals in Graphic Design
The AIGA Design Archives represent the winners of AIGA competitions from 1980 to 2012. The collection includes work from all disciplines of communication design—packaging, corporate communications, brand identity systems, editorial design and illustration, and experience design, among others.
Designed by John Jay for Bloomingdale’s in 1991, Save the Animals candy packaging encourages the preservation of endangered (snow leopards) and non-endangered animals (humans). The candy packaging is a light-hearted approach to inform people of an environmental issue. On a direr note, Duan Lian designed a Life Clock for the World Wildlife Fund China in 2007. Silhouettes of endangered animals form the numbers on the clock with hands in the shape of guns. Fewer and fewer animals make up each numeral, causing the numbers to become illegible as the clock ticks through the hours. Lian’s clock both informs us of the plight of endangered species and asks what we would do if we could turn back the clock.