Elephants, leopards, dogs, squirrels and dragons… From exotic creatures, household pets, urban wildlife to mythical beasts, animals have been an active part of human experience, an inexhaustible trigger of the imagination. Animal Stories presents the many tales of our encounters with the animal world, shedding light on how our social, symbolic, affectionate, scientific and utilitarian relationships with animals have been visualized through ceramics from the 17th century to our day.
Animal Stories will delight visitors of all ages, inviting them on a journey that is both colourful and heartwarming, and sometimes scientific or critical. The exhibition unfolds through a series of themes that cut across time periods and that take us to the core of human-animal relationships. Themes include: the intersection between art and science, from different approaches to naturalism to the impact of scientific discourse on art; conceptions of the wild, from the introduction of “exotic” beasts in 18th-century Europe, to works that cast a critical look at the current state of wildlife; animals as part of our everyday, as faithful companions, pets, or beasts of burden; animals as storytellers, moral teachers and social commentators; and creatures of the imagination, with representations that bridge the realms of fantasy and reality.
The exhibition also features illustrated books alongside ceramics, thus exploring the longstanding connection between the two media as vehicles for storytelling. Examples include popular sources employed by 18th-century decorators and modellers, such as printed natural histories and Aesop’s Fables, as well as a selection of children’s books featuring beloved animal characters from the 19th century to the present.
Spanning four centuries of visual culture, Animal Stories will feature Japanese and Chinese porcelain, English and European ceramics, and the work of many contemporary ceramic artists, including Shary Boyle, Sergei Isupov, Janet Macpherson, Lindsay Montgomery, Ann Roberts, Adrian Saxe, Wendy Walgate and Jason Walker, and original book art by Canadian illustrators such as Brenda Clark and Barbara Reid among others. The works in the exhibition are drawn from the Gardiner Museum’s permanent collection, private collections and public institutions.
Curated by Karine Tsoumis
Selected works by Red Weldon Sandlin are available from private collections.