School of Culture and Communication - Theses

Permanent URI for this collection

Search Results

Now showing 1 - 1 of 1
  • Item
    Thumbnail Image
    Australian animal painting and the human-animal bond in art
    Kovacic, Katherine Vanessa ( 2014)
    Animal painting is a critically important part of Australian art history, yet it has been afforded scant–if any–scholarly attention. Additionally, as the genre reached an apotheosis in the nineteenth century, animal painting represents a window into Australian society during a phase of rapid development. Domestic animals were a key part of society during this period, as cherished companions and as a driving force behind the expansion of Australian agricultural interests. This thesis begins the task of establishing animal painting within the annals of Australia’s art history. Commencing with an overview of animal painting in different cultures since the birth of art, the thesis then moves to consider the human-animal bond and its impact on the visual representation of animals. The human connection with other species has been represented artistically from Palaeolithic times to the present, yet the portrayal of animals in art is often dismissed as symbolic. By examining the science of the human-animal bond, the thesis explores why humans like to create and look at images of animals. It postulates that a connection with animals affects the way people view paintings when animals are part of the picture. In the same way, artists who specialise in animal painting not only exhibit a strong affinity with animals, they are able to capture the sentience and intelligence of their non-human subjects with greater veracity. Turning to Australian art of the nineteenth century, discussion focusses on the role of domestic animals in colonial society and on the artistic legacy of animal painters. Several artists are singled out for closer scrutiny, in particular, Harold Septimus Power. Septimus Power can be considered an archetypal animal painter: he evinced a strong connection with animals, was highly successful throughout his career and is largely overlooked and underrated since his demise. The intensity of the bond shared between mounted soldiers and their horses was played out in paintings portraying the Australian Light Horse in action during World War I. That Australian animal painters were on the spot to record these events meant their art contributed significantly to the horse-soldier bond forever being entwined with the legend of Anzac. By confirming the importance of animal painting in Australian art, this thesis suggests new avenues of research, both in regard to art and to the human-animal bond. Further exploration of the way animals have been represented in the art of different cultures, and into the significance of the animal gaze in art are just two of the ways in which the study of animal painting can facilitate greater understanding of the role animals play in human life.