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Should wildlife art look like photography?

June 3, 2011

This is an interesting question and I am sure the answer boils down to ones personal preference. That said, a recent article by Michael McCarthy of the Independent newspaper asked this question of Harriet Mead the President of the Society of Wildlife Artists. It is Harriet’s decision not to use the normal address for the show, i.e. “The 47th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists” instead she has called it “The Living Eye.”

Michael McCarthy  asked Harriet why she had renamed the exhibition, and she said she wanted to encourage a wider audience who perhaps had misconceptions about “wildlife art” – people, she said, “who think that the gallery will be full of clichéd photo-realist paintings of the Big Five”. (Africa’s tourist attractions: lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo). She said she had nothing against photo-realism as such – she instanced the English bird artist Chris Rose, who might be described as a photo-realist, as “an amazing painter” – but, she said, “It’s just that a certain audience measures the work of art by its relationship to reality and photography, and the closer it is, the better it is. There’s a certain kind of audience that rates work by how much time they think the artist has spent on it.” What Harriet wanted to see, she said, was “stunning work that just happens to have the natural world as its inspiration.”

Chris Rose wildlife artist and bird illustrator,bird art, painting of a bird by Chris Rose

Chris Rose-Bird Artist

With such comments from Harriet, do you think there will be a real change in the minds of the “Hanging Judges!” Will the realism genre of artists be taking a back seat in the future exhibitions of the SWLA? I look forward to hearing your comments and to this September when we should see a new platform for wildlife art in the UK.

Related Links

Read Michael McCarthy’s full article here:

Chris Rose Wildlife Artist and Bird Illustrator

4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 9, 2011 10:07

    Hi and thanks for an interesting article … even a non artist like feels wishes to learn and enjoy more of this … will visit again ..

    thanks for dropping by and encouraging my post on the ‘Greater Coucal’ …

    • June 9, 2011 10:16

      Hello Dilip,thanks for visiting my site. I did enjoy reading your articles about your herb growing farm, it was worth the visit.

  2. June 14, 2011 13:44

    I’m not an art expert so I’ll leave the debate to others. Personally, I pick art by how it resonates with me and I like paintings that actually look like what they represent, rather than abstracts. At art shows I tend to gravitate towards nature and scenic photos, useable potter, and gentle watercolors.

    • June 14, 2011 15:06

      Thank you for your point of view Donna. I’m sure it is all about personal preference. Unfortunately for me, I like such a diverse range of artistic approaches, I often find it too difficult to choose. Though, I have purchased realistic works by the bird artist Earnest Leahy, but I also like the work of Nick Derry with his abstract elements. So much choice…and a wallet to small to buy all of my likes!

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