Walton Ford's Bestiary in Europe

Walton Ford's paintings can be seen at Vienna's Albertina till October.

Walton Ford's paintings, mostly in watercolor, gouache, ink and pencil on paper are made in the style of classic natural history paintings. At first sight I thought these are real old paintings. The fake foxing and the penciled writings and comments are absolutely convincing.

Walton Ford has often been compared to John James Audubon . This is certainly true for the style and the accuracy. But there's more to Walton Ford than just meticulous depiction of animals. Upon closer inspection you find out that his paintings are full of allegories, hidden meanings, very often satirical and critical, sometimes with a touch of humor.

The paintings are beautiful, and they blend depictions of flora and fauna with political commentary, and make us think about the impact of former political oppression like slavery on today's society. The relationship between man and animal, very often accompanied by cruelty and violence, becomes a metaphor for how we deal with weaker - or different - cultures and peoples.

In the exhibit, each painting comes with a little story, a reference, a literary quote. Some of them are based on legends, some on true incidents.

The photo here shows one of his most popular paintings, "Der Pantherausbruch," (The escape of the Panther). It is based on the story of a black panther that escaped from the Zurich Zoo in 1934 and survived for more than two months in the Swiss winter before it was shot and eaten by a day laborer.

Here you can watch the three parts of an art-talk with Walton Ford. It took place a few weeks ago in Vienna and it's in English.

In an interview Walton Ford said:
"These paintings are about the cultural history of our interaction with the animals," Ford said. "And they often become a metaphor for how we treat other people."

Lots of his paintings can be seen here, as well as in Google Pics.


Lydia said...

How extraordinary! His art is special, and he gives a great gift by researching details (especially for us to have a look at extinct animals). The video was a wonderful addition to the post. How about that rear-view-mirror concept?! Maybe we should look at more things in life through rear-view mirrors.

francessa said...

The rear-view-mirror is ingenious, isn't it? And I take very much to your idea of looking at more things from such a perspective. Hmm, what shall I tackle first?

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