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Monday, June 25, 2018

Dolphin Art

Ocean Paradise, Robert Wyland
One of the most consistently popular content areas for painters and other artists is that of wildlife. That being the case I've written of and highlighted some of the best images artists have created broken down into generic categories such a tigers, bears, giraffes, and zebras, just to name a few. I've even done pieces on skunk art and fishy Art. Today I've chosen to look at Dolphins--one of the most gracefully beautiful creatures God ever created. Before you think I've started repeating myself, keep in mind dolphins are not fish but mammals, which bear their young alive (calves) and "mother" them much as do other mammals. Someone had the bright idea to call mother dolphins "cows" and their philandering mates "bulls" (I can't see the resemblance.) It must have been a zoologist with a crude sense of humor--a mammologist, perhaps.
Fresco of Dolphins, ca. 1600 BC, from Knossos, Crete
If you go looking for the first use of dolphins by artists, you might be surprised to find they go back to at least 1600 B.C. as seen in the Knossos Frescoes on the island of Crete (above). Moreover, the images are quite accurate. Though it's unlikely that these playful aquatics have enjoyed consistent popularity with artists as is the case of more aggressive wildlife, we find a resurgence in dolphin interest beginning about 1960, and likely not by coincidence just a year after Hawaii became a state. Hawaii doesn't have a state mammal but if it did, the Dolphin would probably be the first choice.
Who could resist a face like that.
No, van Gogh didn't paint dolphins,
but if he had they might have looked
like Wayne Cantrell's Starry Night
There are some forty extant species of dolphins, all of whom are part of the Cetacean family. Strangely, their closest living relative is the ungainly (not to mention ugly) hippopotamus. The porpoise is also considered a dolphin though they differ slightly in facial appearance and are much less common. Dolphins have long been credited by scientists and writers as having exceptional intelligence, even riv-aling that of man. Dolphins’ rev-ered status among mammals probably began with John Lilly, a 1960’s era dolphin researcher and psychotropic drug enthusiast who was the first to popularize the idea that dolphins are intelligent, later suggesting that they were even more so than humans. In 1978, Douglas Adams’s hilarious classic, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, suggests there are several animals said to be more clever than humans. Among them were dolphins that knew about the intergalactic bulldozers which eventually vaporized the planet. They tried to warn us of the impending doom: "The last ever dolphin message was misinterpreted as a surprisingly sophisticated attempt to do a double-backwards-somersault through a hoop whilst whistling the Star Spangled Banner, but in fact the message was this: So long and thanks for all the fish."
Dolphins by Moonlight, Adrian Chesterman--dolphins a metaphysical beings

Dolphin Dance, Stephen Anderson
As with most art, dolphin art can be broken down into traditional style categories. Dolphins by Moon-light (above) would be considered meta-physical, or spiritual, perhaps even surreal (take your pick). And given the graceful simplicity of their shapes and body movements, dolphins invite no small number expressionist render-ings such as that of Stephen An-derson's Dolphin Dance (right). And as for us who tend toward naturalism we need only look at the work of Howard Hall and Iris Sand (below).

Iris Sand and Howard Hall. If you like Dolphin art, you had better also like the color blue.
If you like dolphin art, you'd best
like sunsets as well.
I should also note that dolphin art is prone to sunsets, often highly exaggerated to the point of gaudiness as seen in the touristy dolphin mani-festation (left). Serious tropical artist often more accurately refer to such work as an in-festation. And for those who really, really REALLY like dol-phin art, you might want to invest in one of those new-fangled ceiling aquariums sim-ilar to that seen below.

Just hope the ceiling doesn't leak.
A Dozen Swimming Dolphin, artist unknown.

It's surprising what you get when
you Google "Dolphin Art."


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