Click on photos to enlarge.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Deer Paintings

Whitetail, 1990, Bruce Miller
Shadows of Bow-hunting
Whitetail Deer, Michael Sieve
I have to wonder in researching this topic if there's ever been a single artist who hasn't, at one time or another, painted deer. The sheer number to be found on the Internet and the incredible variations to be seen suggest to me that this Monarch of the Glen (below), as Sir Edwin Landseer termed what is probably the most famous deer ever painted, may, in fact, be a universal favorite for all painters (not to mention art buyers). As with all specific content areas in art, the quality ranges over the proverbial, good, bad, and ugly, which also suggests the universal appeal these graceful woodland creatures hold for artists of all levels of expertise. Although many artists have painted deer in isolation (myself included), the very best works feature them in their natural environment, which therefore demands that the artist also be adept at painting woodland landscapes as seen in Bruce Miller's 1990 Whitetail (above). Michael Sieve's Shadows of Bow-hunting Whitetail Deer (left) is an especially adept handling of snowy shadows and watery reflections.
Monarch of the Glen, 1851, Sir Edwin Landseer.
This British stag has sold a lot of insurance.
Red Deer, 1913, Franz Marc
Landseer may have created the most famous deer painting, but he was far from the only famous artist to take on the subject. The 19th-century French Realist, Gustave Courbet's Dead Deer (below) from 1857, underlines the fact that painting deer also brings to the fore the intimate association with deer hunting. If the prehistoric cave artists are to be believed, that may well be the earliest manifestation of such art. Franz Marc's Red Deer (right) from 1913, presents a Cubist take on the subject, which would seem to indicate that the such works transcends many different painting styles and eras. It's difficult to pinpoint just why this should be, but it may be nothing more complex than the simple shape, delicate grace (or noble strength), and benign character of the animal itself.

Dead Deer, 1857, Gustave Courbet
Along the same line as Courbet's Dead Deer, the Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo, found the image of a The Wounded Deer (below), from 1946, the perfect symbol for her tortured existence during the latter years of her life. The deer is an assimilation of her Mexican and European heritage with the image of Kahlo’s head placed on top of a stag, pierced with arrows. The arrows no doubt refer to her pain and suffering due to her injuries, as well as her injurious marriage to Diego Rivera. An ancient Aztec symbol, the deer symbolizes the right foot, alluding to her injured right side, the foot of which had been crushed in a bus accident. Her right leg was fractured in eleven different places. One year before her death, this leg was amputated up to her knee, due to complications from gangrene.

The Wounded Deer, 1946, Frida Kahlo
Chinese deer by Ya Cong.
The universality of the deer as a subject for so many artists can be seen in the fact that it can be found in the art of virtually every country in the world where deer are to be abundant. The colorful red Chinese deer (no pun intended) by Ya Cong (right), I found especially appealing, though admittedly, I know very little about oriental art. My own ventures into deer painting date mostly from the mid-1970s with two virtually identical images painted on canvas and black velvet, with another deer in a winter scene (below), the three painted over a period of three years.

Ohio being the "Buckeye State."
What A Deer, Jessica Buhman
I've also painted deer in their natural habitat as seen in the 1997 painting. Flora and Fawn (below). The slide was made in the days before digital photography so it didn't "clean up" very well. The watercolor image titled What a Deer (left) by Jessica Buhman illustrates that painting deer, not only does not demand a natural habitat, it doesn't even necessitate natural color. This is painting, after all we're talking about, not color photography, a point lost on so many art buyers who seem not to consider anything other than paintings of realistic deer in the wild. From the title to her colorful Expressionism, What a Deer seems obviously painted by a woman to appeal to feminine tastes. I'm sorry if that sounds sexist, but in art, here and elsewhere, there is a definite gender divide as to content, handling, and style. For the men, I couldn't help being amused by James Dwyer's Deer Camp II (bottom) sometimes known by the more apt title Deer Camp Surprise. Notice their breakfast sliding off into the fire.

Flora and Fawn, 1997, Jim Lane

Deer Camp II, 1954, James Dwyer, originally an ad for Winchester rifles and ammunition.
A dedicated deer lover.


No comments:

Post a Comment