Franz Marc

Animal kingdom: That’s a print

The Portland Art Museum's new "Kingdom Animalia" showcases five hundred years of prints of animals, from Dürer to Picasso and beyond

When I dropped into the Portland Art Museum a few days ago I slipped quickly past the giant robotic monstery thing looming over the entrance to the Animating Life exhibition of designs from the Laika movie studio, beyond earshot of the strange rumble of noise emanating from the animations like a troubled stomach under the influence of Alka-Seltzer. My destination was down the stairs to one of my favorite spots in the museum, the comforting and vastly quieter graphic arts galleries.

Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471-1528), “Die wunderbare Sau von Landser (The Monstrous Sow of Landser),” ca. 1496, engraving on antique laid paper, The Mark Adams and Beth Van Hoesen Art Collection, public domain, 2007.59.2

The exhibition Kingdom Animalia: Animals in Print from Dürer to Picasso had opened just a few days earlier, and a nice small crowd was wandering through, spending some quality time with the almost sixty prints on view. It’s a brisk stroll through five centuries of art, with explorations of the animal kingdom as disparate as Dürer’s grotesque The Monstrous Sow of Landser; Franz Marc’s placid yet quietly energetic Tierlegende (Animal Legend), a small woodcut of an idyllic, almost Eden-like gathering of harmonious beasts; and Adolf Dehn’s actual, if imaginary, scene from Eden, 1945’s Before the Fall, which shows a very hairy Adam holding a sly snake aloft, a flirty Eve discreetly hiding her privates with a showgirl’s fan, and a garden full of animals who seem to have a glancing kinship with Maurice Sendak’s wild things.

Continues…