Curious Beasts


Mezzotint print by William Ward

William Ward – Mezzotint print – wether sheep 21 months old – 1818 – Detail from Portraits of the Blyth Comet ox and Four Wether sheep.

Leafing through the little book Curious Beasts – Animal Prints from the British Museum by Alison E. Wright I’m captivated, entranced and delighted.  The book is a publication by the British Museum Press to accompany a travelling exhibition of the same name, which will be at the Ferens Art Gallery, Hull from the 7th June -31st August, 2014.  I’ve noted it in my diary.

engraving of Five Foxes

Five Foxes – engraving by Israhel van Meckenem – late 15th century

The text in the book is enlightening and reminds me that there was a time, before cameras and printing, that you relied on actually seeing an animal, or reading the description of it by someone else – which wouldn’t necessarily help with identification!  Animal artists throughout the centuries have also created imaginary and fanciful beasts and birds.

Engraving of birds and flowers

Flora: flowers fruicts beastes birds and flies exactly drawne – engraving John Payne c. 1620

Where artists mastered the techniques of printmaking, in engraving, etching, woodcut – their skills  successfully translate the vibrant colours in the natural world into elegant linear patterns and velvety black tones.

A Sleeping Leopard by George Stubbs, 1791 – a soft ground etching with roulette work – is one such print, the way a sense of fur is created is extraordinary – a very gentle print from his menagerie studies of big cats.  I can’t wait to see this at the exhibition.

Curious Beasts – Animal Prints from the British Museum exhibition runs  Saturday 7 June – Tuesday 26 August, 2014

Ferens Art Gallery
Hull City Council
Queen Victoria Square

01482 300 300

Opening times
Monday to Saturday
10am – 5pm
1.30 – 4.30pm



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