Animal Allegories

Sep 19, 2023 — Dec 17, 2023

Across cultures, artists have used animals as symbols to make sense of our world and ourselves.

About the Exhibition

Animals appear in the earliest known cave drawings and petroglyphs as early as 40,000 years ago, and as far back as ancient Sumer and Egypt, animals were used to embody and satirize human characteristics and behaviors. 

These personified animals often take on an intangible quality or idea that artists engage with and manipulate for their own ends – for example, dogs have historically symbolized loyalty and protection, but to printmaker Carol Wax, images of dogs represent comfort and companionship. For some, monkeys can symbolize our less sophisticated hominid cousins, left behind in the trees as we learned to walk upright. Yet to artist Françoise Gilot, the caged monkey she observed at her local zoo as a child was a symbol of the ways in which she yearned for freedom. Other symbolic animals may take on a more straightforward association, such as artist Pablo Picasso’s bulls, which are rife with masculine energy over which men might triumph. In each case, the artists in this exhibition participated in a tradition older than civilization itself: they found something utterly human in the beasts they observed. 

Featured Artworks