The Animal Kingdom
The earliest cave paintings are depictions of animals, and ever since, humans have had a desire to describe the animal kingdom in both images and words.
As empirical knowledge grew, drawings became increasingly accurate, and scientific catalogues were accompanied by superb, even life-sized illustrations. Some of the most ambitious and valuable books ever produced are works of natural history.
Shown here are works of another type: they represent animals in anthropocentric terms. Their creatures display our foibles and frailties, and their antics are all too human. Animal fables and medieval bestiaries ascribed particular characteristics to individual species and were written for the purpose of moral or religious instruction. More recent stories which have animals for their characters may not have this didactic purpose, but are nevertheless in the same tradition. Such animals, however familiar or fantastic, are imagined in human terms, and behave and speak like us.