Wildlife Art – why is it looked down on by the art Establishment? Over the last few years I really thought we were getting past this attitude, but then I watched the BBC2 programme Show Me The Monet.
I’ve only watched a few episodes, and have so far enjoyed the programme. Sadly though, there’s very little art on display that has a wildlife subject, and what is on show has not been top quality. The first piece that could be considered wildlife art was a sculpture of a captive gorilla by an amateur who admitted it was his first sculpture.
The panel’s comment was that “In general art exhibitions natural history art sits very badly and out of place.”
The following episode showed a painting of an elephant by a man who described himself as “new to painting”. The panel’s verdict? “Serious artists don’t paint elephants.”
Firstly, where is the high quality wildlife art? Surely, amongst the countless entries that were submitted, there were examples of wildlife art from artists who had moved on from the very first stages of their careers?
Secondly, why is wildlife not considered to be as valid a subject as any other? I genuinely don’t see why a high quality image of an animal should be considered inferior to a high quality image of a chair/ tree/ building/ gateway/ swimming pool.
I have no wish to view twee, chocolate box images and I’m quite willing to admit that there is some deplorable work out there that calls itself wildlife art, but there are equally poor landscapes, still lifes, portraits and seascapes in existance. Why must one whole genre be dismissed for some poor work when the same standard is overlooked in other genres?
Yes, much wildlife art could be classed as illustration and too often we see scientific accuracy favoured over artistic merit, but that doesn’t mean there’s no good wildlife art out there. I believe that, at its best, wildlife art will hold its own against the best of any other genre.
I’ve been involved in the wildlife art world for over twenty years and during that time I’ve seen paintings of wildlife become more accepted and more acceptable. Today I realised we still have a very long way to go.