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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Monkey Art

Untitled, 2014, Patrice Murciano

As a continuation of my highly popular series on wild animal art, I've decided to take a look at one of the most delightful, charming, and humorous creature on God's green earth--the monkey. Monkeys are Haplorhini primates, (or translated from Greek), "dry-nosed" primates. I suppose that's to differ-entiate them from most ofher mammals which have "wet" noses. Quite apart from the damp-ness of noses the major reason for our affect-tion for these simians is their similarity to our-selves. Although, as compared to their human cousins these little apes are not quite what you'd call beautiful. Yet their homely count-enance is a great part of why we love them so much.
 Day Dream Believer, Marjansart
Exotic Landscape, 1910, Henri Rousseau--one of the more popular monkey works.

Though technically not a monkey I've
included this one because I liked the art.
In choosing some of the most outstanding paintings depicting monkeys, I discovered they tend to fall into two distinct genres--funny monkeys and those in their natural habitats--monkeys being monkeys. Per-haps more than any wild animal we know, monkeys have suffered far more of their share of indignities at the hands of artist. At the same time, they have, at times, been elevated to near human status as a means of highlighting human foibles demonstrated in the work of the Austrian artist, Gabriel von Max (below) in depicting a "jury" of his peers evaluating art...likely his own, pain-ted after it was rejected.
 Silver Back Gorilla, James W Johnson.
Henry Herman Cross's painting of monkeys as people in a courtroom.
For the most part I've tried not to concentrate on those art renderings casting monkeys as the butt of bad jokes. Virtually all animals look their best when depicted doing what they normally do. An artist would likely never render a lion or tiger doing something stupid or undignified. Yet these same artist seem not to think twice in their visual mistreatment of monkeys. Perhaps someone should report them to the Humane Society.
I'm not sure why the Austrian painter Gabriel von Max sees monkeys as
art connoisseurs. Perhaps he considered them as dupes.
Perhaps the most famous monkey living today is Michael Jackson's pet chimp, Bubbles. We know what happened to Michael Jackson, but what ever happened to Bubbles? Bubbles, now age 26, lives at the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, Florida, and is apparently doing quite well. Michael made him famous but it took an artist, Jeff Koons, to immortalize them both with his ceramic sculpture of the semi-prone singer and his pet. Unfortunately monkeys do not make good pets, as Mr. Jackson discovered when Bubbles got older, bigger, and more powerful. He had to be "institutionalized" for the safety of both Michael and his children.

Though Jackson promised to come visit his old friend, he never did;
nor did he support the chimp financially.
Most of us never think much about it, but the depiction of wild animals, of all kinds differs according to the native culture. Western culture has tended toward Realism, humor, adventure and, God help us, "cuteness." In the Far East, however, such creatures are depicted more elegantly and in a much more decorative manner as seen in the example below.

A Chinese rendering of a Far Eastern primate, bears
a strong similarity to the accompanying calligraphy.
As seen by western artists and their Realism, it's sometime difficult to differentiate between the work of a highly skilled painter and a photograph, not to mention a photo that has been "painted" digitally. There is virtually no difference in the effects which experienced artists can attain with either a brush and pigments or the digital brushes, pencils, sprays and inks available today (below)

Speechless, James W. Johnson. Painting or photo...or both?

SURPRISE! A digital painting.


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