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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Tiger Art

Hector, Julie Langford
A few weeks ago I wrote highlighting zebra art. It's proven to be one of the most popular topics I've ever explored. So, on the theory that my readers like stripes, I've moved from victim to predator. It might be a close call, but if I were to venture a guess, I'd say that tigers may well be more popular among artists than their less-colorful food source. Don't tell Julie Langford's Hector (above) I said that. In any case, there's no doubt in my mind that tiger's far outstrip zebras as school mascots. When did you ever hear of a school basketball or football team calling themselves the "Zebras?"

Depending upon the age group of those on the team, tiger mascots range from playful cubs, to friendly-looking cats, to ferocious man-eaters.
Tigers in China may be
no different from those
elsewhere, but Chinese
artists have a distinct-
ively different manner in
rendering them.
Despite their sometimes fiercely aggressive appearance, such big cats may be resting mostly on their looks and reputations. If they were really such mascot-worthy, combative terrors, why are they one of the most endangered species in the world? In essence, they're no match for their only natural enemies--us. A bit over one-hundred years ago there were 100,000 tigers roaming over parts of Europe, much of Asia, and the entire Indian subcontinent (below). Today, the most accurate count places the world-wide tiger population at between three and four thousand. Ninety-two percent of the former habitat (forty-one percent just since 1990) has dis-appeared. Four subspecies of tigers are now extinct in the wild. Only in the past year, for the first time in a century, has the overall tiger population shown a slight increase.

Tigers first reached India and northern Asia in the late Pleistocene, reaching eastern Beringia (but not the American Continent), Japan, and Sakhalin. However, some evidence in the form of fossil skulls (distinct from lion skulls) could indicate that tigers may have been present in Alaska within as recently as 100,000 years ago during the last glaciation. Tigers are among the most recognizable and popular of the world's wildlife pre-dators. They have featured prominently in ancient myths and folklore, and continue to be depicted in modern films and literature. The tiger is the national animal of Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, and South Korea. They appear on many flags, coats of arms, and, of course, as mascots for sporting teams.
Some islands have lost their entire tiger populations.

In the past, artists have had a virtual monopoly on tiger im-ages, usually observed in zoos and private menageries in that the big cats were often notably uncooperative with delectable looking photographers. Howev-er, as both cameras, and the men and women behind them, have improved, tiger painters today find it easier to simply use photos as the basis of their renderings.

Angry Tiger, ballpoint pen, by Vianaarts
Tiger cubs are more than oversized kittens, though
sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.
When dealing with paintings of wildlife (and not-so-wild life too, I guess), there's a tendency to assign gender stereotypes to certain images. The two tiger cubs below would, at first glance, seem to have been done by women artists. They're just soo cute (the cubs, that is). Actually both paintings were done by men. That's not to say men don't favor the ferocious, and perhaps, taken as a group, women, may, indeed, succumb to their mothering instincts in liking to paint the young over their parents.

Cute little guys...for now, at least.
Prince of India, Richard Symonds

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