Sunday, May 6, 2012


Friday night turned out to be an unusually warm and pleasant evening.  It was also 'Ladies Night Out'.  My friend, Margaret, who is also my blogging buddy, and I decided to get together.  We met for crepes and to discuss our blogging experiences before heading off to the Morgan Library to view an exhibit entitled "In the Company of Animals: Art, Literature and Music at the Morgan".

This was an excursion I was excitedly looking forward to - the concept was fresh and appealing.  People have always been fascinated by animals from our domesticated pets to wild exotics and this exhibit highlights how artists through the ages have incorporated them into all art forms.

From a 1800s children's board game illustrated with different animals to hard copy books of "The Jungle Book", "Mother Goose" and "Aesop's Fables" the exhibit showed how animals were used to entertain as well as impart moral lessons and teach nature to children starting at a very young age.

Music and dance were represented by such offerings as bound copies of a children's ballet entitled "The Toy Box" and Prokofiev's children's symphony "Peter and the Wolf" a piece of music I found endlessly fascinating from a very young age.

Paintings and drawings in all mediums from oil to pencil were amply represented.  I found it hard to move on from Delacroix's "Royal Tiger", an absolutely beautiful  water color rendition of a Bengal Tiger reclining, returning several times to study it again.  In addition to the tiger, Delacroix is represented by his "Study of a Cat" - showing his fascination with the entire feline kingdom in this portrait of a house cat.  Here you will find the masters of the art world represented by Degas' "Racehorse", Debussy's "Elephant", Toulouse Lautrec's pen sketch of a hunter and his dog, Rembrandt's "Elephant", Reuben's "Lion", Pollock's "Ram" and David Hockney's delightful drawing of his two dachshunds, Boodgie and Stanley curled up together.

Medieval art (secular and religious) is represented by several books illustrated with animals and paintings of Adam and Eve and various saints depicted with animals.  The naturalist and ornithologist, John James Audubon is represented by his exacting and intriguing rendition of a family of rabbits.

Among the literary items on display, a first edition copy of George Orwell's "Animal Farm", "Black Beauty" by Anna Sewell - the autobiography of a horse and a novel I found to be quite moving as a young girl.  Steinbeck's manuscript of "Travels with Charley: In Search of America".  A favorite of my teenage years, "Travels with Charley" is Steinbeck's travelogue of his final cross-country trip taken with his Standard French Poodle, Charley as his only travelling companion.

Poetry is represented by "Elegy for a Drowned Cat".  Two of my favorite authors are show-cased in this category as well, e.e. cummings, with a whimsical poem type-set in the shape of a grasshopper, entitled "Grasshopper" and a hand-written letter from Edgar Allen Poe to his editor requesting changes to his poem "The Raven".

Other items included a typed draft copy with handwritten corrections of Margaret Atwood's short story, "My Life as a Bat" and the typed draft and cover mock-up of E.B. White's "The Trumpet of the Swan".  Of course, the exhibit would not be complete without a panel of Charles Schultz's "Peanuts" showing Snoopy typing his famous novel by the light of fireflies.

There were many more items to round out this thoroughly enjoyable exhibit which showed the effect animals of all kinds have had on humans over the centuries.  As companions, the lure of the exotic, representatives of nature, elements of fantasy, muses or reflections of ourselves, animals and their lives are forever intertwined with us.

I did wonder about the exclusion of photography from this exhibit.  It would have been nice to see at least one shot of William Wegman's weimaraners represented.

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