The relationship between animals and people has looked different in different periods but it has always been close. Throughout history, artists have been fascinated and inspired by animals. In the summer exhibition at Läckö Castle 2023, you could see over 150 works from the Nationalmuseum’s collections on the themes of animals as company, threats, food and pure fantasy.
Over the millennia, verbal and literary stories have been told of faithful, cunning, dumb or clever animals. There are many proverbs and phrases about animals and the qualities of animals play a key role in the moralising fables of antiquity. In the art of ancient times, animals are often pictured as symbols of particular qualities, but what they symbolise varies in different cultures and religions. In western culture, for example, the dog represented loyalty and the lion strength, while the fox was cunning.
Artists down the ages have been fascinated and inspired by the diversity of the animal kingdom. Using different materials and techniques, they have attempted to capture animals’ specific qualities and characters, more realistically before but in modern times more distanced from an exact representation.
Goldfinch sitting on a strawberry stalk, 1760–1800. Pietra dura. Made in Italy by an an unknown artist.
Cigarette case by unknown artist for Hallbergs Guldsmeds AB, 1890. Partly gilt silver.
Figurine Sea-horse. Executed at Den Kongelige Porcelainsfabrik, Denmark, 1780–1820. Porcelain.
Carl Richard Söderström, sculpture, Dancing Bear, 2021. Glazed black stoneware.
Philip Thelott the younger, Two dogs and two parrots on a terrace, 1724. Gouache on paper.
Saucer decorated with butterflies in vivid colours against a white glazed beackground. Made c. 1830–1850 by unknown German artist.
Johann Joachim Kändler for Manufacturer: Porzellan-Manufaktur Meissen, figurine in the shape of a pug dog. Designed c. 1735. Porcelain.
Henrik Münnichhofen, Maria Eufrosyne (1625–1687), Princess Pala- tine of Zweibrücken, and Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie (1622–1686), Count, Councillor of the Realm, Marshal of the Realm, Lord High Chancellor and Lord High Steward, 1653. Oil on canvas.
The summer exhibition 2023 presented 150 works from the Nationalmuseum’s collections, dating from the early 18th century to the present day. In one way or another, they embraced everything about animals: animals as our friends, exotic animals from distant lands and little animals close to us that perhaps we don’t even see. There was everything from figurines and other porcelain to textiles, sculptures and paintings. The artists represented included well-known names such as Carl Frisendahl, Lisa Larson, Stig Lindberg, Carl Milles, Frida Fjellman and Per B Sundberg.