Animal Genre

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Animal Genre


the depiction of animals in painting, sculpture, and graphic arts. The animal genre combines scientific and artistic principles and develops observation and love of nature. The animal artist pays particular attention to the artistic representational characteristics of an animal, its habits, and its environment (for example, in easel painting, sculpture, prints). The decorative expressiveness of the figure, its silhouette, and the color scheme are especially important in park sculpture, wall paintings, and small sculptures. Often (especially in illustrations for fairy tales, fables, allegories, and satires) the animal is anthropomorphized—that is, endowed with human characteristics, acts, and feelings. Often the main task of an animal artist is to depict the animal with accuracy, as in illustrations for scientific and popular science literature.

The keen powers of observation of artist-hunters are seen in pictures of animals and birds in primitive art. The stylized figures of animals in monuments in the Animal Style (including the art of the Scythians), in the art of the Ancient East, Africa, Oceania, ancient America, and in the folk art of many countries are extremely lifelike. Representations of animals are often seen in antique sculpture, vase decorations, and mosaics; in medieval Europe, allegorical fairy-tale birds and beasts drawn in the folk art style were common. During the Renaissance, artists began to draw animals from life (Pisanello and A. Dürer), but actually the animal genre (in many ways related to landscape, still life, and the everyday-life genre) and animal artists appeared in China as early as the T’ang (Han Kan, in the eighth century) and Sung (Mu Ch’i, 13th century) dynasties; European animal artists appeared in the 17th century in the Netherlands (P. Potter and A. Cuyp) and in Flanders (F. Snyders and J. Fyt) and in the 18th century in France (J.-B. Oudry) and Russia (I. F. Groot). In the 19th and early 20th centuries romantic admiration for the strength and agility of animals (A. L. Barye in France) was coupled with the desire to make exact studies of animals (J. Audubon in the USA and C. Troyon in France; sculptors P. L. Klodt and E. A. Lanceray in Russia, A. Gaull in Germany, C. Thom-sen in Denmark); these studies often depicted animals in their natural setting (B. Liljefors in Sweden and A. S. Stepanov in Russia) or in vivid, graceful characterizations (sculptors F. Pompon in France and V. A. Serov in Russia).

The work of leading Soviet animal artists (including paintings, sculpture, prints, and illustrations for scientific and juvenile books) is notable for its subtle knowledge of the animal world, which it views as closely bound up with the life of nature and man; it fuses perception with acutely characterized and expressively decorative images (including V. A. Vatagin, I. S. Efimov, E. I. Charushin, I. G. Frikh-Khar, D. V.Gorlov, E. M. Rachev, G. E. Nikol’ski, V. I. Kurdov, A. M. Laptev, B. Ia. Vorob’ev, and A. Starkhopf).


Vatagin, V. A. Izobrazhenie zhivotnogo. Moscow, 1967.
Piper, R. Das Tier in der Kunst. Munich, 1922.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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