A Treatise on Horses

Domestic, Wild, Divine: Artists Look at Animals

November 21, 2012 – August 4, 2013

The subject of the animal has captivated artists for thousands of years. Among the oldest known works of art – the cave paintings at Lascaux, France – feature hundreds of depictions of bulls, deer, and horses. While humans and animals share many traits, the distinction of our species from the rest of the animal world has long been held as an important marker of civilization. Animals have been ever-present in human history, yet the way that we conceive of and interact with them has varied widely across cultures and time periods. Animals have been important sources of labor and locomotion as well as factoring in human myths, cultural rituals, and religious traditions. This exhibition examines the way that artists have responded to the significant but often enigmatic roles that animals have played in human life.

Drawn from VMFA’s diverse permanent collections, the exhibition features many perspectives on the subject of the animal – from wild beasts to treasured pets to otherworldly creatures. Works in a variety of media – painting, sculpture, decorative arts – tell the story of the complex relationships that have been forged between humans and our fellow animals, and reveal something of the emotional, spiritual, and physical connections that have flourished between us.

About the exhibition

  • TITLE: Domestic, Wild, Divine: Artists Look at Animals
  • LOCATION: Mellon Focus Galleries
  • DATES: November 21, 2012 – August 4, 2013
  • VMFA CURATOR: Mitchell Merling, Paul Mellon Curator & Head of the Department of European Art


About the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
VMFA’s permanent collection encompasses more than 33,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years of world history. Its collections of Art Nouveau and Art Deco, English silver, Fabergé, and the art of South Asia are among the finest in the nation. With acclaimed holdings in American, British Sporting, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist, and Modern and Contemporary art – and additional strengths in African, Ancient, East Asian, and European – VMFA ranks as one of the top comprehensive art museums in the United States. Programs include educational activities and studio classes for all ages, plus fun after-hours events. VMFA’s Statewide Partnership program includes traveling exhibitions, artist and teacher workshops, and lectures across the Commonwealth. VMFA is open 365 days a year and general admission is always free. For additional information, telephone 804-340-1400 or visit www.vmfa.museum.