Why Do Artists Paint Animals? This is a test and you will be graded!

“Julia Manet and Her Greyhound Laertes” by Berthe Morisot
“The Railroad: Gare Saint-Lazare”, detail by Edouard Manet”Sleeping Girl with Cat”, detail, Pierre-Auguste Renoir”Self Portrait with Black Dog” by Gustave Courbet

Four artists painting animals: Morisot’s dog with young girl, Manet’s puppy with woman, Renoir’s Cat in girl’s lap, and Courbet’s self-portrait with black dog.

Hint: all paintings have people in them. These are cropped views of the larger paintings. They are all French paintings from around the Impressionist era.

Okay, I am kidding, you won’t really be graded, 🙂 but what are your responses to these four paintings? I believe each of them has a story behind the picture, do you think? It may say something about the artist as well as the subject he or she painted.

Why are pets included in paintings primarily about the people?

Does this say something more about the person being portrayed or about the artist painting the person?

Last question: did the painter want you, the viewer to have an inner response to his or her painting?

Tell us what you think. Art is meant to evoke a response, no?

P.S. Did you notice the cat is blue? Why are Courbet and the black dog so alike? Why is the woman reading when she is at a train station Saint Lazare and has a puppy in her lap? Does Julia Manet look happy in her dark dress, and what about her dog?

Food for thought.

Did the painters send you a message with their paintings?


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7 Responses to “Why Do Artists Paint Animals? This is a test and you will be graded!”

  1. Ruth J Kary Says:

    Pets are part of the human experience, and as such it seems appropriate to include them in paintings about/with people in them. My husband and I have two cats and I have taken numerous photos of them, printed and framed them. I plan to do paintings of them as well.

    I think having pets makes you more aware of the needs and wants of pets and people too. I think how you treat your pets indicates how compassionate and caring you are. I know they have become an integral part of our lives and I believe they have helped me be a more caring person in this world. They love you no matter what!

    By loving animals, I think that in painting them this love will show through in your paintings (and photographs). Ruth


  2. karen Says:

    Well said, Ruth. I also enjoy trying to photograph our cat and dogs. It’s a challenge, they move so much! I’m sure your pets are very lucky to have you for their caretakers.


  3. Katie-lee Says:

    animals show such innocence and meaning, they are also fun to paint it is up to an artist on what they paint. It may be their favourate animal or breed.


  4. Edward Says:

    Joshua Reynolds painted “Nelly O’Brian” with a dog. And I think a few others. Interesting post!


  5. Malik Says:

    It has been very common in art world to see paintings of animals.
    lots of meaning could be conveyed by animals. For example, a dog is a symbol of fidelity. colors of animals could also give meaning such as white color on animals is a symbol of pureness, and so on.


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