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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Zebra Art

Zebras Drinking, unknown artist
Many years ago, as an undergraduate at Ohio University, a friend of mine with far more talent and/or experience than I painted a group of zebras. I forget how many, two or three at least. The canvas was about 4 feet X 4 feet and incredibly impressive. I wish I could remember the artist's name, I'd love to display his painting here. As it is, I'll have to be satisfied with the one above titled Zebras Drinking and the one below titled simply Zebras. As near as I can recall, these paintings by unknown artists are quite similar that the one painted by my unknown friend way back about 1970. Though I've long since forgotten the artist's name, I'll never his painting. I've loved zebra art ever since.
Zebras, unknown artist--closer to Op Art than animal art.
It's little wonder so many artist have been attracted to zebras over the years; they're almost like four-legged abstract paintings even before any artist had a chance to have fun with them on canvas. Not withstanding the obvious differences, they're much like a horse in many ways, (only somewhat smaller, more unpredictable, not to mention prone to panic). Moreover, efforts to domesticate them have been largely unsuccessful. It's probably not the first such artistic rendering, but the Illustration of a Zebra by Ludolphus from A new History of Ethiopia (below), first published in 1682, would certainly be in the running for such a distinction.
The caption at the top doesn't help much
--it's in barely readable Latin.
Is it real, or is it abstract? Technically
it's both. It's a real abstract painting.
For artists, there's very little differ-ence in the level of fascination be-tween those who enjoy depicting zebras in the wild such as The Great Chase (below) and those enraptured by the abstract expressionist potential theses magnificent animals present. One thing which amazes me, how-ever, is the seeming reluctance of art-ists to attach their names to their ze-bra art such as the painting at left. Although I love seeing zebra art, I've never painted a single stripe. Years ago while still in college and inclined to, I probably couldn't have done them justice. To-day, when I might, I find it more fun to write about zebra art that create it. Fortunately, there's no shortage of painters who feel otherwise.

Zebras in the wild.
Maybe there's a stigma as to painting zebras. In searching for zebras by famous artists I found only one example (not to imply there may be others). Not surprisingly, it was by Andy Warhol. I've posted below Warhol's work and that of a Warhol imitator. Can you tell which is which? (The answer is at the bottom.)

How well do you know Warhol?
It never ceases to amaze me, and even disturbs me somewhat, the penchant artists have for taking a perfectly good zebra painting and adding outlandish color to it. The artist above succumbed to that temptation as did the one below. Are zebras so lacking in beauty and visual texture that so many painters find the need to, in effect, "decorate them"? One might guess that Joseph in the Old Testament Bible wore a technicolor zebra skin, rather than the scriptural "coat of many colors."
"It's funny, yes, but really, it's no laughing matter."
Speaking of stripes, there are three species of zebras, each quite different to the point that, though they may share the same range, they seldom interbreed. Likewise, the stripes of no two zebras are exactly distinctive as our fingerprints, only somewhat more pervasive. I might also add that scientist who study such things, have absolutely no idea as to how zebras came to have stripes. But, it's a pretty good bet, that neither of the two animals below had anything to do with the matter. And if you need yet another question to ponder: are zebras white with black stripes or black with white stripes? Once more, the answer is at the bottom.

A Zenocerous or a Rhinocebra?
Zebras for the living room perhaps?

The short-nosed zebra--extremely
hard to domesticate.

They're black with
white stripes. 


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