Monday, June 29, 2015

Bruno Liljefors and the Fox

The Swedish wildlife artist Bruno Liljefors (1860-1939) spared no effort to achieve a lifelike quality in his paintings.


He skipped social gatherings so that he could rise early and go into the countryside to lie motionless for hours, hidden behind reeds at the water's edge.

Occasionally he brought a gun, saying "Sometimes I have to kill these birds and animals in order to dissect and study their structure." But he needed to see them up close and alive to understand their postures and movements.

He tried sketching at zoos, but found that "the modified captivity of the animals distorts their character and changes their habits."



He created his own menagerie in Uppsala, Sweden with more free-roaming spaces, but even there he found they acted unnaturally—especially the fox, who he wanted most to observe.

So one day he decided to set the fox free.
"When he turned his fox loose he gave him a fair start over his hounds, intending to have a fox-hunt all to himself; but the fox waited quietly for the dogs to come up with him, and then they played together. It was a failure, even from an artistic point of view."  
Quotes from Brush and Pencil, Vol XV, June 1905.

9 comments:

Steve said...

Wonderful paintings, particularly like the composition and vegetation in the top one. I understand the word "failure" in the account of hounds and fox playing together but it is a success in my view. Thanks for again introducing me to an artist. How did you happen to be reading a 1905 volume of Brush and Pencil?

HNK said...

The paintings are really realistic and look great. I guess that off-topic question will not make you angry. Will there be more CW videos in this year (summer maybe) and when will casein video be? I am sorry for that.

James Gurney said...

HNK, No worries. I'd like to do another CW sometime in July, but I don't know when yet, as it depends on internet, weather, and other factors. The casein video will probably come out in the autumn.

Steve, "Brush and Pencil" was a magazine for artists, kind of the US answer to "Studio Magazine." It's full of great info about working methods. It's available on Archive.org. I agree, the ending was a success from our point of view.

HNK said...

Thank you, James

Jeremy Pearse said...

Great post about one of my favorite wildlife artists. I first found about him some 25 years ago and managed to get a book of his work (in Swedish) written by Allan Ellenius. It contains some incredible paintings of birds and other wildlife which are all very nicely reproduced along with a few photos and other black and white studies. A lot of his paintings were huge - the canvas titled 'Duvhok och orrar' painted in 1884 (of a young Gryfalcon taking a male Black Grouse) is to my mind a masterpiece - his Eiders at Dawn another. Pity there is no definitive book on his work, until one comes out I'll be enjoying the one I have.

John P. Baumlin said...

I've been a Liljefors fan for years, thanks for this interesting post. A few originals can be seen at the Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming. A slight correction to James Pearse: the raptor in Duvhok och orrar is a young goshawk, not a gyrfalcon, and it is indeed a masterpiece.

Marque Todd said...

Thanks for introducing me this artist. I can't really understand how someone who was that obsessed with wildlife (which usually means they have a love and passion for animals) could ever turn a fox loose with the intent of his own "private fox hunt". I am a scientist and understand capturing and even killing one or two to study structure and anatomy, but a fox hunt?! That is cruel and barbaric - it makes me not want to study him knowing this no matter how good his painting are. I guess I always have to keep in mind it was a different era with different sensibilities....

Jeremy Pearse said...

Thanks for the correction John, of course it's a Goshawk, don't know what happened there. I have Gyrfalcons on my mind lately since I have been doing a lot of studies of them so it must have just slipped out!

Amy Thompson said...

I'm with you there, Marque. I would not want to be an animal crossing paths with this artist.