Artefact of the month - August 2009
`Row in the jungle' by Joseph Wolf, 1863
This beautiful and evocative painting is currently on loan to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge for their Darwin 200 celebration, an exhibition entitled `Endless forms : Charles Darwin, natural science and the visual arts’. The exhibition continues until 4 October 2009.
The exhibition explores how Charles Darwin’s theories inspired nineteenth century artists and how Darwin was influenced by natural history illustrators and the themes of contemporary painters.
According to the exhibition catalogue :
`The sheer profusion of life forms and the complexity of their interactions were increasingly apparent to him [Wolf]. A Row in the Jungle, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1863, shows rhesus macaque monkeys alarmed by a marauding tiger, the females with young are retreating into the trees as the males try to defend the colony. The variety and density of the undergrowth – albeit studied in Kew Gardens, not in the Indian Jungle - evoke the fight for survival among plants, as among animals. The tiger’s stripy markings disguise its presence among the fronds, while the monkeys’ group behaviour acts as an alternative kind of survival strategy. It is rich, resilient life rather than grim fatality that is conveyed here. The harmonies of the vibrant colour … evoke the fecundity of nature, and the creative power of the `war of nature’ with an elation that is truly Darwinian’.
Read more in `Endless forms : Charles Darwin, natural science and the visual arts’ edited by Diana Donald and Jane Munro, New Haven and London : Yale University Press, 2009 ISBN 978-0-300-14826-8
Visit the exhibition website at Endless forms exhibition
Other paintings by Joseph Wolf have been featured in previous months including `Wapiti in the snow’ Artefact of the month - December and detail of a `Caspian snow partridge' Artefact of the month - December 2007 and `Cheetahs' Artefact of the month - September 2008
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