“The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men.”—Leonardo da Vinci
Artists have long found inspiration in animals, particularly their own pets; Picasso and Hockney popularized their dachshunds, Warhol had countless cats named Sam, Frida Kahlo kept monkeys and a fawn named Granizo, and Dalí had a pair of ocelots, Babou and Bouba. As advocates, admirers, and champions of animals, artists have kept a running dialogue on animals in art, and we’ve found numerous contemporary artists who engage in this tendency.
Yana Movchan sheds new light on the still life genre, injecting her Renaissance-inspired style with scenes of magical realism, often by incorporating bold cats, chickens, or monkeys. In Red and White, Movchan plays with dichotomies, presenting distinct glasses of wine, alongside two opposing species of cats and birds. Especially intriguing are her depictions of cats—curious wiry sphinxes and wide-eyed, downy persians.
Harriet Sawyer’s intriguing portraits often include dogs, a custom that began when she was working with a model who would bring her dog with her everywhere. In Watchful Eye, two charming French bulldogs accompany a lounging female nude figure, adding a playful new element to the painted nude and surprising the viewer, who is confronted by the black bulldog’s red eyes.
Contemporary surrealist painter Andrea Kowch’s fantastical and foreboding farmland scenes almost always include animals, like birds, rabbits, and goats. Many of her works, like Crow’s Song, pose animals as menaces, recalling scenes from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, while others embrace them as part of the family, like An Invitation, where a guinea pig and a ferret are welcome attendees at a tea party.