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It is no secret that people adore watching and portraying animals in various mediums. Just take a look at any pet owner's phone gallery and you will find plenty of pictures of their pet there. Or think about how cats have ruled the internet since basically its mainstream popularization. 

Paintings are no exception. Artists love portraying animals, even if it doesn't always come out successfully. Fortunately, today we're going to take a trip around more sophisticated animal art pieces from history.

More info: Facebook

#1

One For Now, A Couple For Later, Alison Friend, 2022

One For Now, A Couple For Later, Alison Friend, 2022

Silvia Franzolini Report

#3

Pierrot Et Le Chat, Théophile Alexandre Steinlen , 1889

Pierrot Et Le Chat, Théophile Alexandre Steinlen , 1889

Sandra Segal Report

All these paintings were shared in a Facebook group dedicated to animals in paintings throughout history. We could say that this Facebook group is a virtual museum of animal art. The group, as you could have guessed, is called “Animals in Art through History.” It has over 88K members, so quite a big bunch! 

This only proves our thesis right in the beginning - people love to portray or see animals portrayed in any medium, including art. 

Bored Panda reached out to the group’s creator Ollie Kapp and she agreed to share some information about the group. 

Ollie is an animal lover and art enthusiast, and so she created this Facebook group 3 years ago, as a place where people can share and discuss animal representations in art. 

#4

(Untitled), Penovác, Endre, 2012

(Untitled), Penovác, Endre, 2012

Cristina Manfredi Report

#5

Looking Tiresome (Aka Teasing The Cat), Yoshitoshi, Tsukioka ,1888

 Looking Tiresome (Aka Teasing The Cat), Yoshitoshi, Tsukioka ,1888

Cristina Manfredi Report

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The group's creator shared what preferences for certain art styles she has noticed in the group: “One can see a preference in the group for contemporary illustrations and artists such as Chris Dunn, Maggie Wanderwalle and Lana Privitera and Nataliya Bagatskaya over the representation of animals in more 'classic' or modern art.”

Non-violence is also another thing that is popular among group members. “Paintings in which animals attack or are attacked or appear to have been treated unfavorably provoke heated and unsympathetic discussions.”

To this, Ollie added “I believe art is meant to touch and awaken feelings, but am well aware of the cultural, historic, and geographic context in which each specific artwork is created. Humans, as well as animals, are complex and multi-dimensional creatures. Good art represents all facets of this complexity.” 

Anything that has its own enthusiasts usually also has experts. This Facebook group is no exception, as pointed out by Ollie: “Group members bring their expertise and knowledge into discussions. For example - two members of the group are experts on birds, and each representation of a bird gets an analysis and comparison of the difference between the artistic outcome and the original ‘model’.”

#7

'egyptian Cat Hunting In The Marshes' The Tomb-Chapel Of Nebamun Thebes, Egypt Late 18th Dynasty, Around 1350 Bc

'egyptian Cat Hunting In The Marshes' The Tomb-Chapel Of Nebamun Thebes, Egypt Late 18th Dynasty, Around 1350 Bc

Lyndsay Boyes-Lopez Report

#8

'cat With Kittens, Henriëtte Ronner-Knipm, 1844

'cat With Kittens, Henriëtte Ronner-Knipm, 1844

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Animals in paintings are not used only for fun, but to depict a certain theme. As a matter of fact, a lot of animals have specific themes or meanings assigned to their species.

For instance, dogs usually are used to portray loyalty. So, quite often, they are in the paintings of couples as a sign of fidelity. Or, if the portrayed woman is a widow, a dog near her might represent her devotion to her late partner. 

Also, different breeds of dogs can have different meanings as well. Lapdogs can represent the upper social class while hunting dogs represent nobility or masculinity. But not only well-kept dogs can be painted. Here, images of street dogs can be used to evoke feelings of class struggle or desperation. 

Artists who put cats in their paintings try to tell slightly different stories than those who portray dogs. Cats may be the symbol of sensuality, seduction and female promiscuity. Cats quite often are seen as unpredictable creatures, who can change their aims from pleasure to malice at any second. 

Other times cats can be portrayed in the hunt for small birds as a representation of mortality and life. Or their predatory nature can be used for humorous scenes, portraying the priority of instinct instead of rationality.

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#11

Cat On Radiator, Steffen Kraft (Aka Iconeo), 2018

Cat On Radiator, Steffen Kraft (Aka Iconeo), 2018

Sandra Segal Report

#12

The Tale Of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter, 1902

The Tale Of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter, 1902

La Máquina del Tiempo Report

If you ever see a lamb portrayed in an art piece, you can probably assume that it portrays Christ or innocence. It can also be a symbol of gentle nature and childhood.

At the same time, the grown sheep or ram could represent male strength. Goats can also represent male strength. Or it can have a hidden meaning of a carefree pastoral life.

We are pretty sure that Ken from the “Barbie” movie, who thought that maybe horses represent masculinity, isn’t the only person ever to think that. But it’s not true. On the other hand, Ken also thought that maybe these animals are in charge of our society, as there are quite a lot of pictures of them around us. While horses aren’t our rulers, it’s a bit closer to the truth. In art, horses are a symbol of high standing in society and power. Such meaning is usually portrayed by painting horses in military service.

Besides that, horses can represent beauty, passion, and untamed spirit. Donkeys can be used for Christian symbolism or social commentary in comparison to horses. 

#13

Portrait Of Sarah Bernhardt, Georges Clairin, 1876

Portrait Of Sarah Bernhardt, Georges Clairin, 1876

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clarebaker avatar
Omni Unicorn
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I love that the dog and woman seem to match each other perfectly!

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#14

Heron, Jilly Henderson, 2023

Heron, Jilly Henderson, 2023

Sandra Segal Report

#15

Woman Lying On A Bench, Carl Larsson, 1913

Woman Lying On A Bench, Carl Larsson, 1913

Jim Papadopoulos Report

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Tabitha
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Yep, this is me. If it sit or lie down long enough, I will eventually end up looking like someone dumped a bucket of animals on me.

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Snakes in art can have a variety of different meanings. In ancient art, they can symbolize good health. Even today, they can be associated with medicine by the Asclepius and Caduceus symbol. On the other hand, snakes can be a reference to the original sin, or simply a sign of the devil. Biblical art can also use snakes as a voice of maturity, wisdom, and guidance.

There are even more animals who represent various things in art. So, next time you’re looking at animal art, try to question what this creature could possibly represent. What hidden meanings could it bear?

What meanings to animals in art do you assign yourself? Or maybe you have your favorite animal painting? If not, check out this list, maybe you will find one that you’re really fond of. And don't forget to share about it all with us in the comments!

#16

Dreamers, John George Brown, 1899

Dreamers, John George Brown, 1899

Anna Agelopoulou Report

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Kelly H. Wilder
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Reminds me of Norman Rockwell's work. Maybe Brown was an inspiration for him?

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#17

Late Uruk Period Copper Artifact (Hedgehog Depiction) Found In Syria, Dating Back To 3000 Bc

Late Uruk Period Copper Artifact (Hedgehog Depiction) Found In Syria, Dating Back To 3000 Bc

Lucrecia Borgia Report

#18

Ulla Thynell, Finnish Artist. Enchanted Forests 2022

Ulla Thynell, Finnish Artist. Enchanted Forests 2022

Ana Jos Report

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#19

The White Owl, William James Webbe, 1856

The White Owl, William James Webbe, 1856

Sandra Segal Report

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Mimi La Souris
Community Member
2 months ago (edited) DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

looks soooo soft ! cuddle time ! (even if she kills me :D)

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#23

I Don't Know Anything About Any Doughnut, Alison Friend,2023

I Don't Know Anything About Any Doughnut, Alison Friend,2023

Jorge de Azevedo Report

#24

My Wife's Lovers, Carl Kahler, 1891

My Wife's Lovers, Carl Kahler, 1891

Sandra Segal Report

#25

Drops Of Kindness, Nicolene Botha, 2016

Drops Of Kindness, Nicolene Botha, 2016

Barbara Carole Lee Report

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#26

Cat With Her Kittens, Julius Adam, 1913

Cat With Her Kittens, Julius Adam, 1913

Asia Aesthete Report

#27

Spilled Milk , Alfred-Arthur Brunel De Neuville, (1852-1941)

Spilled Milk , Alfred-Arthur Brunel De Neuville, (1852-1941)

Sandra Segal Report

#28

Butterflies, Johanna Sierko-Filipowska, 2010

Butterflies, Johanna Sierko-Filipowska, 2010

Sandra Segal Report

See Also on Bored Panda
#30

Walking Through The Village, Chris Dunn, 2019

Walking Through The Village, Chris Dunn, 2019

Pepe Fox Report

#32

Catnapping, Kim Johnson Nechtman, 2021

Catnapping, Kim Johnson Nechtman, 2021

Barbara Carole Lee Report

#33

Martha B Rabbit, Shirley Barber 1995

Martha B Rabbit, Shirley Barber 1995

Holly Oh AI Report

#34

Singe Assis, Pablo Picasso, 1905

Singe Assis, Pablo Picasso, 1905

Catherine Delacroix Report

#35

Alberto Morrocco, Vera And Lola , 1997

Alberto Morrocco, Vera And Lola , 1997

Cuchy Sueiro Report

Note: this post originally had 53 images. It’s been shortened to the top 35 images based on user votes.