Wildlife Art

On my trip to Jackson Hole in September I managed to get a few hours to explore the National Museum of Wildlife Art. I was pleasantly surprised with the extensive collection of works that centered around the cats, making this visit one of my best museum experiences to date. I fell in love with so many sculptures and paintings that it is hard to list them all, but I recall a few of my favorites here.

The museum building, which is inspired by the ruins of Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, is surrounded by an incredible sculpture trail and houses a permanent collection of over 5,000 cataloged works focusing primarily on European and American painting and sculpture. If you love and appreciate art and wildlife, then this museum is a must.

The first piece of work, that I have essentially become obsessed with, is a massive bronze sculpture that greets you as walk into the gallery. At the top of the stair case on a rock wall a puma crouches ready to pounce. The work is titled Silent Pursuit by artist Kenneth Bunn.

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Kenneth Bunn, Silent Pursuit (1994), Bronze – National Museum of Wildlife Art

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The angle and lighting do not do it justice in these pictures but you can get an idea of how powerful and animated this sculpture is, in the photo below you can make out the eyes and muzzle detail along with the strong musculature of the cat. This is a prime example of why his work is held in such high regard. Imagine being greeted with this at the top of your stair case every day!

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The next work is one of the many paintings that feature the African lion. This is by Wilhelm Kuhnert a German painter who specialized in animals, of which lions were one of his favorites. There was something about the simplistic scene and pure detailed quality of the subjects that drew my eye. It resembles a familiar image that could have been captured during a photographic safari.

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Wilhelm Kuhnert, African Lions, 1911, Oil on Canvas

This piece by James Northcote struck me for an altogether different reason. The stark portrayal and dark beauty of two tigers imprisoned in a zoo, miserable and doomed for life deprived of all things natural. It elicited a powerful feeling of sadness and could easily reflect the reality of many zoo animals around the world today. The image of the second tiger looms in the dark and you can just make out its face in the painting. A Tiger’s Den could also be considered a snapshot of what the worst zoos were like for animals in the early days. The painting is of two boys, viewing tigers for the very first time at the Royal Menagerie in the Tower of London.

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James Northcote, A Tiger’s Den, 1816, Oil on Canvas

In contrast to the above work The Enchantress by Arthur Wardle, a British artist known for his animal paintings and studies, is romantic, whimsical and bordering on mystical. I see the subjects connection to the cats and control, notice the placement of her hand and how she holds the rope. The more you look the more you question the relationship between women and animal, it is definitely an image that is open to interpretation.

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The Enchantress, Arthur Wardle, 1901, Oil on canvas

Tiger Observing Cranes by French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme is bright and cheerful with an almost surreal quality. The tiger is regal, aloof, contemplative and exudes an overall calmness against a crisp blue sky and ocean background which would not normally be habitat that you would find this species in. Is he out of place here, or exactly where he should be?

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Tiger Observing Cranes, Jean-Léon Gérôme,1890, Oil on Canvas

Instantly recognizable Andy Warhol’s bright, colorful work is appealing and pleasant to the eye even when the subject is an endangered species. This is one of ten color screen prints in the Endangered Species Portfolio, which also includes animals like an elephant, panda, rhino and zebra. The signature style is memorable and raises the individual animal to the same celebrity status of Warhol’s human subjects. The endangered Siberian Tiger has become pop art.

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Endangered Species: Siberian-Tiger, Andy Warhol, 1983, silkscreen print

There were many works depicting mountain lions at the museum and this bronze sculpture titled Panther and Cubs by American artist Edward Kemeys, was wonderful to see as it depicts a tender and loving moment. The beautiful and gentle expression of the mother and content kittens is captured in an almost painterly fashion, details seen better in the second image, which help soften the hard material allowing the subjects personality and life to come through.

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Panther and Cubs, Edward Kemeys, Bronze, cast 1878

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Moving on to more modern works, this particular painting was another piece that I would have loved to been able to take home as I would never grow tired of looking at. Mountain Lion, by Britt Chauncey Freda is the perfect combination of abstract and realism all in one – all these factors along with the colors, had me going back to this painting a few times during my visit. I wasn’t the only one who liked it, I noticed that there was a sealed bid which meant some lucky person would soon be taking this beautiful painting home.

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Mountain Lion, by Britt Chauncey Freda , Acrylic and graphite on panel, 2017

My final favorite piece is another gorgeous bronze sculpture of a tiger by American artist Gwynn Murrill who sculpts amazing abstract animals without detail. She is known for her animal forms and very distinct pieces that portray movement and character in a beautiful simplistic form.

I was first introduced to her work a number of years ago while traveling through the Toronto airport where two of the tiger sculptures were displayed, but seeing this again reminded me how much I loved her work. She has a huge portfolio of cats big and small all of which are fantastic, so be sure to check out the link to her work. Some of the sculptures are even small enough to fit inside your home, although I would have a very hard time deciding on which one I would want to have.

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Tiger 2, Gwynn Murrill, Bronze, cast 2012

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Build a Cat

For cat lovers and Lego fans you now have the chance to build your own cat with JEKCA animal sculptures. They come in a variety of ‘kits’ and styles so you can pick your feline color pattern and whether you would like your cat sitting, standing or walking.

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Unfortunately, for those hoping to immortalize their own feline there is no customization available at this time, but you will have a number of different cats to pick from.

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If you haven’t played with Lego in a while no need to worry, assembly instructions are included with these sturdy and life-size works or art.

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There are a variety of other animals to pick from including the big cats like the lion and tiger.

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JEKCA is based in Hong Kong but ships their affordable and fun “blocks for kidults” worldwide.

Future Cats

Reconstructing what prehistoric big cats looked like, and to some extent how they lived, often relies on fossils finds that researchers and scientists use to piece together the past, but what if we wanted a glimpse into the distant future of big cats instead?

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From the past –  CGI recreates the famous Sabertooth cat confronted by the first humans. Image – Nat Geo WILD/National Geographic Channels

Future Cat by Nat Geo WILD has given us that glimpse by taking a different approach, using cutting-edge special effects, and creating new worlds with ‘evolved’ big cats to go along with them. The show examines how today’s Lions, Tigers, Jaguars and Leopards would live in drastically changed environments complete with ice, desserts, floods and shifting continents that could possibly have African, Asian and North America cats fighting for survival.

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CGI: The four big cats, Lions, Tigers, Jaguars, Leopards perched high above on a mountain. Image – Nat Geo Wild/National Geographic Channel

Although the show is pure fantasy with the help of CGI and imagination it manages to address some real questions of how big cats will adapt to a future earth with extreme climate changes.

Future Cat also touches on the present and how the perfect predator has inspired researchers in the lab to create a ‘robotic cat’ like the one at MIT which mimics the running of the cheetah.

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CGI: A futuristic robot cat stands in the rubble of Fukushima waiting to begin a search and rescue mission – Image Nat Geo Wild/National Geographic Channels

Big cats have been around for millions of years, they are highly adaptable and have survived some of the earth’s most extreme challenges. Researchers acknowledge that there is really nothing quit like them and that they will never be able to be completely replicated. Once big cats are gone, they are gone for good.

What does the future hold for the big cats? At present that is something only humans can answer, their future remains in our hands. Big cats have survived almost everything nature has thrown at them up until this point, however the greatest threat they face is still from us.

Future Cat has aired on Nat Geo WILD, however you can watch the show in it’s entirety here on dailymotion

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A future cat watches as comets streak through the night sky. What does Mother Nature have in store? Image – Nat Geo WILD/National Geographic Channels

Hair of The Cat

Studying wildlife is no easy task and ensuring it is done in the most non-invasive way can also be a challenge. When researchers wish to gather certain information about a species without actually capturing, and possibly harming, an animal they will often use camera-traps to take images or video of an animal. The traps are placed in predetermined areas or corridors where the species is known to frequent and are kept well hidden to reduce the impact on wildlife and chances of theft by humans.

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Puma – taken by camera trap in the Peruvian Amazon – Image Wildlife Photographer Jeff Cremer – Gizmodo

Along with gathering valuable information about use of habitat, social behaviors, and what they eat, camera traps can also help provide a visual health assessment of an animal. In some cases the images caught of rare, elusive, shy, and nocturnal felines can prove to be quit beautiful.

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Ocelot- take by camera trap in the Peruvian Amazon – Image Jeff Cremer – Gizmodo

While camera trap have proven useful they cannot collect physical samples, which are often required for research, and that is why scientists sometime rely on scented hair-traps to collect DNA, determine what the animals habitat ranges are and learn about genetic diversity. The traps have been in use since the 1990’s, mainly in cooler climates, and have been gaining popularity as a way to sample without stressing wildlife. Peninsular Malaysia is the latest place to employ this non-invasive method which is aimed at gathering population data from some it’s most endangered carnivores including the Malayan Tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni), Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), Leopard (Panthera pardus), Golden Cat (Pardofelis temminckii), Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), and the Marbled Cat (Pardofelis marmorata).

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An example of a scent-baited hair traps created to target Felids. The CD was added to help visually attract the animals. – Image Mongabay

The use of scented hair-traps would allow researchers to obtain hair from a wild animal when they touch, or in the case of felines, rub up against the trap which is on a tree.  To enhance the chance of obtaining samples appealing odors, specially created fatty acids or men’s cologne, were used to entice animals to the traps which were set up in two main wildlife corridors. After 764 nights they discovered (via camera traps that were used to monitor the project) that at least one male Malayan Tiger and one male Clouded Leopard had rubbed against a trap.

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Male tiger ‘cheek rubbing’ on one of the hair traps in the study. – Image Mongabay

Scientists where later able to collect the hair of the cat, in the case the Tiger. The Clouded Leopard did rub the spot on the tree where the scent had been but elephants, another obstacle to the study, had already removed the trap. It was also discovered that the CD may have been a deterrent to a few of the felines, as one was seen running away from it, proving that not all cats like shiny things.

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Leopard Cat one of the 6 species of felids targeted for hair-traps – Image Mongabay

From this study scientists determined that for now at least, scented hair-traps in Peninsular Malaysian need improving, either by making the scents stronger or by moving locations of the traps. More work will be required to determine the potential of this non-invasive method and if it will benefit studying endangered felids in tropical forests.

Circus Tiger

Many countries are finally starting to realize that big cats, and wildlife, do not belong in circuses. The abuse and exploitation that these animals face is not something that should be tolerated and individuals, organizations, cities and governments are thankfully starting to work together on making the archaic form of entertainment a thing of the past.

Once an animal is rescued ensuring they go to a sanctuary that will provide the best possible environment for them to thrive and live out their lives free from stress and abuse is a priority. Looking after an animals physical and mental well-being should be the goal and Rancho dos Gnomos in Brazil, who also rescued the circus Lion Will, has done just that for a former circus Tiger named Paru.

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Paru in September 2015– All Images Ranchos dos Gnomos Facebook

In June of this year Paru, formerly known as Diego, was rescued by the Ranchos dos Gnomos sanctuary and freed from his desolate life in a Zoo in Brazil where he and his former mate had languished for years in small concrete enclosures. Paru a Bengal Tiger, his mate and five Lions were rescued in 2006 after the the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) investigated and seized the animals from the Transcontinental Circus. Unfortunately Paru lost his partner in 2012 and went into a depression making his stay in the Zoo even more dismal. It wouldn’t be until 2015, when the move was requested by IBAMA, that Paru would be relocated to the Ranchos dos Gnomes sanctuary, a journey of over 1000 km to a new and well deserved beginning.

In this video you can see how Paru has difficulty walking and is looking thin, this is from years of ill treatment in the circus, sitting in a concrete enclosure at the Zoo and not getting proper care or stimulation.

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Paru enjoying his new enclosure in July at Ranchos dos Gnomos.

Once at the sanctuary Paru received all the physical and mental support he needed to recover and, over the summer he started improving and enjoying his freedom as he explored his new surroundings.

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Paru explores his new water hole

Watch the video of Paru enjoying a refreshing dip in his private pool and water fall. As Tigers are one of the few big cats who love water this was a wonderful treat, one that Paru took full advantage of to cool down in during the extremely hot Brazilian summer.

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Paru gets comfortable in his bed of hay

Rancho dos Gnomos is a not for profit sanctuary and has operated since 1991. They take in any animal species who is at risk or victims of crime (circus, rodeo, baiting, deforestation, burning, traffic, ritual, the fur industry, slaughterhouse and abandonment). Their mission is to prioritize the welfare of wildlife, exotic, native, domestic, domesticated or other, through preservation, conservation, restoration and maintenance where necessary and, also by the spread of environmental education.

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Photo taken of Paru in September

The main priority are the animals and the sanctuary works to reduce their stress and or keep it to a minimum as many were rescued from very abusive situations and are fearful of humans. For this reason the sanctuary is not open for public tours however, they do make some exceptions for educational work.

For more on Paru, and the other animals at the sanctuary, be sure to visit them on Facebook.

For more information on Circus Bans worldwide please visit Stop Circus Suffering where you can get updates on bans where you live and learn how to help big cats like Paru. As always please do not patronize any circus that uses big cats or other wildlife.

Japan Before Internet Cats

Whatever did people do for their daily cat fix before the invention of the internet? It’s sometimes hard to imagine there once existed other “mediums” that humans used to express their love for felines that also satisfied the instinctive needs of many to look at cats. The Life of Cats: Selections from the Hiraki Ukiyo-e exhibit, on at the Japan Society, shows us that our cat-obsession is a cross cultural phenomena dating back centuries and that Maru the cat wasn’t the first famous Japanese feline to be immortalized for all the world to see.

There are five sections to the exhibit: Cats and People, Cats as People, Cats versus People, Cats Transformed and Cats and Play. “The collection illustrates the depth of this mutual attraction by mining the wealth of bravura depictions of cats to be found in ukiyo-e woodblock prints of the Edo Period (1615-1868).

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Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797–1861), Cats Suggested by the Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō (detail), 1847. Color woodblock print; each sheet 14 5/8 x 10 inches. Courtesy Private Collection, New York.

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Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), Cat Crossing to Eat, 1830-44. Color woodblock print; 36 7/8 x 22 3/8 inches. Courtesy Hiraki Ukiyo-e Foundation.

Since arriving in Japan aboard Japanese ships transporting sacred Buddhist scriptures from China in the mid-sixth century, cats have proceeded to purr and paw their way into the heart of Japanese life, folklore, and art.”

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Yoshimura Kokei (1770-1836), Dragon and Tiger, Hanging scroll, ink, color, and gold on silk; 90 x43 1/2 inches. Courtesy of Joan B. Mirviss, Ltd. New York.

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Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858), Asakusa Ricefields and Torinomachi Festival from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 1857. Color woodblock print; 22 ½ x 16 inches. Courtesy Hiraki Ukiyo-e Foundation.

Life with Cats exhibit gets animated in the Popular Hotspring Spa (of Cats)

Various pieces will rotate during the exhibit which runs from Friday, March 13 – Sunday, June 7, 2015 at the Japan Society in New York.

The Catmas Gift List – Giving Tuesday

In honor of Giving Tuesday I wanted to share a few cat themed gift ideas for those on your list who like to wear their heart on their sleeve, or think that giving something back is the cats meow.

Clothing for a cause – Arm The Animals

Funny, unique, and witty” graphic designs in men’s and women’s styles that fans of cats big or small will be proud to wear. Arm The Animals creates killer T-Shirts that make a statement, raise awareness and generate funds for small, struggling animal rescues.’

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Women’s CATIFORNIA REPUBLIC Crew – $25.00

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Men’s Grenade Spotted Jagwar Crew – $24.00


Click here for more of their cool cat themed designed

For the little cat lover in your life, a wonderful story based on the real life rescue of a cat named Yoda who goes from being a forgotten shelter cat to a super foster dad to kittens!

When Beth first met Yoda at the animal shelter, he was skinny and his fur was matted. He hid in the back of his cage and wanted nothing to do with anyone. But Beth chose Yoda. She took him home, cleaned him up, and gave him love…Beth fosters kittens, too, and before long Yoda discovered them—and his life purpose. Now he’s happy, and fluffy, and very, very busy.” available on Amazon and at Independent Book Retailers

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Yoda The Story of a Cat and his Kittens – Beth Stern

Beside being an awesome story all the proceeds from this book will be donated to the North Shore Animal League America’s Bianca’s Furry Friends campaign, a proposed state-of-the-art Feline Adoption Center 🙂

If hand painted porcelain jewelery is on your list than look no further than this exquisite Tiger ring by Nach Bijoux from France.

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Hand painted Tiger ring by Nach Bijoux

The designers decided to create “The Ark of Nach” to support organizations that work to save animals. 50% of proceeds from the sale of this ring, or any of the other Tiger themed pieces, will go to Planet Tiger, a European based organization working to help Siberian, Sumatran and Bengal tigers in India and Asia.