The Blessing of the Animals: An ARTstor Bestiary

Just in time for your VISA 3P98 proposal, ARTstor has published their version of a “bestiary.” If you are stuck for topic ideas or are looking for more images, this may be of interest.

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Week #5 Seminar Discussion Questions

Assigned Reading: Michelle Tolini, “‘Beetle Abominations’ and Birds on Bonnets: Zoological Fantasy in Late-Nineteenth-Century Dress.” Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide 1, no. 1 (Spring 2002)

Discussion Leader: Rianna

1. The quote at the beginning of the article discusses the notion of “sartorial excess,” this attitude of excess and the use of animal bodies is a theme we have seen threaded through each week in this class. Can you identify any specific works that express the lack of dignity given to animal bodies for human pleasure that we have previously encountered.

2. The popularity of the use of animal bodies in fashion began to fade with the advent of the Audubon Society, the Selbourn Society, the Society for the Protection of Birds, and a popular article written by M.P. Verneuil which was used in the July 1898 issue of Art et Décoration. How are these instances of activism for animals hypocritical in relation to how they are discussed in the article in relation to equality?

3. How does the following quote contradict the attitudes towards the practice of collecting and exhibiting of animal bodies as discussed in the article: “once the animal moves into the realm of ornament it is somehow divorced from its origins”?

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Week #4 Seminar Discussion Questions

VISA 3P98 Seminar Discussion Questions
September 25: Animals & Contemporary Art

Seminar Leaders: Krista, Amy, Kara

Assigned Reading: Ron Broglio, “‘Living Flesh’: Animal-Human Surfaces.” Journal of Visual Culture 7, no. 1 (April 2008): 103-21.

Discussion Questions:
1. What do the authors mean by “surface” in terms of visual observation and an existential concept for both human and animal? Is there a difference between the two?

2. Regarding the concept of the ‘surface’ in all its forms, do you see any bias presented between the work of Olly & Suzi, and the early cattle pictures? What perspective do you think these biases might be coming from with regards to ‘contemporary art’?

3. To what extent, if at all, do you think us as humans project our own reality and world onto the animal unwelt, and whether or not the article accurately touches upon the idea of animal culture outside of human culture?

4. The article talks about the artist maintaining a distance to the animal vs being in near contact with the animal. Would the different perspectives change the meaning/feeling of the artwork? As the viewer would we be able to tell the difference?

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Week #3 Seminar Discussion Questions

VISA 3P98 Seminar Discussion Questions

September 18: Picturing Animals: A Brief History – Part II

Seminar Leaders: Liz, Stacy and Sophie

Assigned Reading: Diana Donald, “‘Beastly Sights’: The Treatment of Animals as a Moral Theme in Representations of London, C.1820-1850.” Art History 22, no. 4(1999): 514-44.

Discussion Questions

1. Donald mentions the sense of urgency in London with the very present reality of animal cruelty. In what ways did publications by authors and artists help bring awareness to the treatment of animals? What were some
techniques used to emphasize the need for reform?

2. What comparisons can be made between Smithfield Market in the Illustrated London News, 1849 and Anon., The Night View of Smithfield Market 1840? How does each tackle the issue of animal cruelty in London? Do the artistic techniques enhance or detract from the subject matter?

3. What influence or impact did the medium have on the images discussed in the article?

4. How does John Oswald’s statement “The fate of the animal world has followed the progress of man “ apply to the state of London as described in the article? Are there any instances of today’s society that also fall into the Oswald’s theory?

5. Donald describes that seeing a violent or cruel images causes a sort of moral injury to the viewer. Is the power of a visual image more harmful than that of a written one? What implications does this present in terms of censorship, self-censorship and freedom of expression?

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Portraits Honour 9/11 Search & Rescue Dogs

Ever wonder about the stories of search and rescue dogs? Global Animal has a great story (complete with photo gallery) of the dogs that helped with the 9/11 search & rescue efforts.



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Week #2 Seminar Discussion Questions

VISA 3P98 Seminar Discussion Questions

September 11: Picturing Animals: A Brief History – Part 1

Seminar Leaders: Erin & Jillian

Assigned Reading: Sarah R. Cohen, “Chardin’s Fur: Painting, Materialism, and the Question of Animal Soul.” Eighteenth-Century Studies 38, no. 1 (Fall 2004): 39-61.

Discussion Questions

1. Are there parallels that can be drawn between Chardin’s Hare With Powder Flask and Game Bag and Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp with respect to the concept of the “soul”?

2. What significance does Cohen’s statement; “…for in matter is feeling, and in feeling is life” have with respect to materialism and the question of animal soul?

3. Cohen notes that Chardin himself was not a hunter.  Could this suggest that his images of dead game were meant as social commentaries on the cultural practice of hunting at the time?

4. During the early modern period, questions were being raised with respect to the materiality of animals and humans alike.  How do Chardin’s paintings of animals, both dead and alive, address these growing anxieties? 

5. Chardin and Weenix have starkly different approaches to the treatment of dead game animals.  Do their differing techniques change the way that viewers perceive their respective works?

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Pack Moves

Tonight is the opening for “Pack Moves,” a new exhibition curated by Brad Isaacs at  Hamilton Artists Inc. This exhibition is on until October 5th, and is very much related to some of the themes we will be exploring in VISA 3P98 this term.


Brendan Fernandes, Rachel Hellner, Kelly O’Dette, Kenneth Raddatz

Curated by Brad Isaacs

September 5- October 5, 2013

Opening Reception: Thursday Sept. 5, 7-9:30 pm
Supercrawl: Friday Sept 13th and Saturday Sept 14th, 12-11pm
Kidscrawl: Friday Sept. 13, 11:30am- 3:30pm

Pack Moves, a meditation on human-animal relationships, addresses the notion of the individual versus the pack. The “packing” of animals performs a protective social function. However, in terms of taxonomies, thinking of animals as a species rather than as individuals affords them little in the way of self-determination. Grouped scientifically, animals are reduced to a physical description and a list of characteristics. Alternately, “unpacking” could be theorized as an animal being singled out from the group, as when hunted, or when recognized as an autonomous entity. The term also invokes the more literal, visceral reality of animal dissection, in addition to philosophical inquiry. What happens when animals are singled out? What lies in the resultant tense area of vulnerability and agency? The works in this exhibition, produced by Brendan Fernandes, Rachel Hellner, Kenneth Raddatz and Kelly O’Dette, gesture towards the implications of these problems, both for animals and for ourselves.


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