An exhibition of animal-themed works by American artists is filling Scheller and Rodale galleries at the Allentown Art Museum this fall, from now through Dec. 29.
American Wildlife Art includes sensitive studies of individual subjects as well as dramatic scenes of life-and-death struggle played out before the backdrop of the great outdoors.
Like the encyclopedic hardcover book of the same title by guest curator David J. Wagner, the works on display trace the history of an artistic genre shaped over four centuries, from its beginnings in colonial times, through Audubon's day, to contemporary paintings and sculpture.
The exhibition illustrates how ideas about animals and their habits have changed over the years, and how artists and entrepreneurs have developed a market for wildlife art.
On display are early works by Mark Catesby, who supplied members of the Royal Society in London with New World specimens for their burgeoning natural history collections during the Era of Exploration and Discovery; John James Audubon, who caused the course of American wildlife art history to turn and advance by romanticizing the genre and transforming static composition and design into Baroque masterpieces; Arthur Tait, whose collaborations with Currier & Ives brought wildlife art to the masses; Edward Kemeys, whose seminal sculptures captured the essence of disappearing wildlife like the American bison and wolves just as prominent Americans like George B. Grinnell, William Hornaday, and Theodore Roosevelt were promoting wilderness preservation; and contemporaries Louis Agassiz Fuertes and Carl Rungius, who professionalized the genre and brought it into the 20th century.
Also included are early duck-stamp prints and a framed Millennium set of federal duck stamps from 1934 to 2000, on loan from the National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia. The exhibition concludes with recent paintings and sculptures by modern wildlife artists Stanley Meltzoff, Robert Bateman, and Kent Ullberg.
The Allentown Art Museum is located at 31 N. Fifth St., Allentown. Visit www.allentownartmuseum.org.