One of the artists known for using animal/human combinations in art is J. J. Grandville, a French artist from the 1800s. He gained popularity with works like Les Metamorphoses du jour, showing satirical illustrations that used animal-headed people to comment on the contemporary social customs and institutions of his day.
A Huffington Post article about Grandville includes this interesting observation: “His animals dress in human clothing not to reveal their basic humanity but, rather, their (and our) essential strangeness.” This ties in with ideas I’d previously looked into around anthropomorphism and zoomorphism, that the purpose of these devices is to throw human and animal nature into sharper relief by framing it in a less familiar way.
Grandville chose the animals used for the different characters to imply something about them, in a way which relies on both the nature of the animal in question, and also the way human beings have characterised them and projected human qualities on to them.
“Like Aesop, La Fontaine, and Restoration caricaturists before him, Grandville exploited the animal/human analogy for moralizing ends. By substituting for their heads those of animals symbolizing characteristics (for example, peacock for vanity, pig for gluttony, and tiger for ferocity”, he commented on the the behaviour of various social types during the last years of the Bourbon Restoration.” (Getty, 2008)
The story I’m creating which my fox character is from uses animal heads in a similar way, which I will go on to outline in more detail the next post. But in brief, the principal characters are cursed with animal heads as punishment for (actual or perceived) criminal wrongdoing, but also to visibly imply certain aspects of their character to the audience. This allows me to play with both the negative and positive characteristics people give to the animals in question, and in doing so explore how they apply or don’t apply to the characters in-story.
Chu, P. and Dixon, L. (2008). Twenty-first-century perspectives on nineteenth-century art. 1st ed. Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press.
Getty, C. F. (2008) “J. J. Grandville and Max Ernst” in Re-presentations and Re-constructions in Nineteenth-Century Art: Revisiting a Century. Newark: University of Delaware Press.
Grandville, J.J. (1829) Les Metamorphoses du jour. Paris: Chez Bulla. Feb. 2017]
Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2027927 by Jean Ignace Isidore Gérard – From site displaying use as tarot deck http://www.fantasticmenagerie.com/original%20engravings.htm
Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=301895
Bookpatrol.net. (2017). Attack of the Beast People, aka The Social-Animals’ Parade | Book Patrol. [online] Available at: http://bookpatrol.net/attack-of-the-beast-people-aka-the-social-animals-parade [Accessed 13 Feb. 2017].