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Trophies of the Hunt: Capturing Nature as Art

 

(above: Garry Winogrand, American 1928­1984, New York City, 1964, gelatin silver print, 13-7/8 x 10-15/16 inches. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of Elizabeth and Frederick Myers, 1984.195.7)

 

The Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) presents 29 seldom-seen photographs from its permanent collection, in an exhibition that explores a subject developed by artists as diverse as 17th Century Dutch still life painters and today's documentary shutterbugs. Trophies of the Hunt: Capturing Nature as Art, will be on view July 24 through Nov. 3, 2004.

Curatorial Assistant in Contemporary Art and Photography and curator of this exhibition Cathleen Chaffee says, "images in Trophies of the Hunt will be familiar to anyone who has ever posed for snapshots in order to prove a 'big fish story.' These striking photographs provoke a discussion about the desire of both artists and amateur photographers to capture and artistically arrange 'wild' subjects." (right: Garry Winogrand, American, 1928-1984, Fort Worth, Texas, 1974, gelatin silver print, 10-15/16 x 13-15/16 inches. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of Elizabeth and Frederick Myers, 1985.196.13)

This exhibition begins with early and traditional photographs of trophies of the hunt and collects images from throughout the Museum's permanent collection that share a similar goal: arresting or capturing nature as the subject of artwork.

The mounted deer head gazing coyly from the wall, the grizzly bear swiping his paw in mid-growl, the tiger crouching to attack; these traditional hunting trophies freeze nature in place.

The animal's pose -- much like the careful arrangement of dead birds and rifles or flowers and fruit in still-life painting -- reflects aesthetic decisions. The artistic display of the spoils of the hunt, however beautiful or grotesque, is part of the ancient rite of trophy taking. Such presentations were a popular subject for still-life painters, and interested early photographers. (left: Barbara Bosworth, American, b. 1953, Deer Season, Back Lake, Coos County, New Hampshire, 1991, gelatin silver print, 9-7/8 x 15-7/8 inches. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Judith K. and S. Sterling McMillan III Photography Purchase Fund, 1995.84)

An arresting image is Barbara Bosworth's (American, b. 1953) Deer Season, Back Lake, Coos County, New Hampshire (1991). This landscape shows a rustic cabin on a lake surrounded by leafless trees. Although the photograph does not immediately evoke a trophy, the landscape contains a familiar scene during hunting season; a deer hangs by its neck from one of the trees. The technique of hanging a deer cures the meat, making it tender and in a climate like New Hampshire, the deer would have been left out several days.

A highlight to this exhibition is also one of the masterpieces of the Museum's photographic collection, Trophy of the Hunt (1867) by Adolphe Braun (French, 1812-1877). This rare large-scale still life was printed directly from a 31 x 24-inch glass negative and depicts a rifle, powder horn, game bag, tree branches with leaves and six birds, all tacked to a plain, richly grained wooden surface. (right: Robert Glenn Ketchum, American b. 1947, View from Rosie's Ketchikan, 1986, silver dye bleach process color print (Cibachrome), 20-0/16 x 24-0/16 inches. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of the Advocacy Arts Foundation, 1995.188)

The terminology of photography includes many potentially violent words also associated with hunting, such as loading, aiming and shooting. In the 1800s, the now common photographic term, "snapshot," was in military usage to describe firing on a moving target. This concordance between "shooting" a picture and shooting a gun can be related to the voracious appetite of photographers to capture the world around them. The desire to frame and shape nature is also a desire to still its frenetic speed. Like a hunting trophy, modern photography stops nature in its tracks, allowing us to hold in place forces that could not otherwise be controlled.

(above: Barbara Bosworth, American, b. 1953, Swan Hunter, Feeezeout Lake, Montana, 1995, gelatin silver print, 10-5/16 x 8-3/16 inches. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Judith K. and S. Sterling McMillan III Photography Purchase Fund, 1998.18)

 

Gallery Talk

Wed., July 28 at 7 p.m. Exhibition Galleries
Cathleen Chaffee, curatorial assistant and curator of this exhibition will give a gallery talk.
The Cleveland Museum of Art receives operating support from the Ohio Arts Council and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.



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