an exhibition inspired by the pigs of Brittany
like the ray of sunlight in a child’s drawing
running straight to a pig’s ear,
tethering us all to our star.
from “Unrelenting Flood” by William Matthews (1942-1997)
Pigs in the Open Air
How Brittany’s pigs energized Impressionism
This is a retrospective collection of art works by impressionists and other artists. Each has considered the pig as a righteous subject for portraiture in the context its natural rural setting. Also included are subsequent artists and artistic traditions that developed along with or after Impressionism and further honored the pig in paint.
As you review this collection there is no road map or precise plan. Peruse the pig paintings and encircle yourself in a plenitude of painted pork. Compare and contrast, make assumptions. This is a collection full of possibilities for fun and scholarship.
As one investigates the Impressionists, we certainly consider, “why pigs?” Choosing to paint or draw a pig has never been a casual affair. It is a challenging animal of loops and swerves, folds, paps and curlicues. Pigs project an overtly nonchalant and inattentive demeanor. Yet, this belies their potential for a quick fuss or fury. Depicting in paint the many and varied transformations of the sea might seem less difficult.
And yet, as plein air painting in the 19th Century progressed and more artists moved out of the cities and into countryside, there seems to have been natural attraction, almost a fascination, of Impressionists for pigs. These early Impressionists, enjoying their release from classrooms and studios, were forging about themselves for subject matter in rural Brittany. A similarly foraging pig – an animal ubiquitous to the region – likely seem a worthy subject.
And did the salon students think back to their early training when paints were stored in pigs’ bladders with a wooden stopper? How many pigs’ bladders had they squeezed paint from during their student years. And with how many pig bristle brushes had they plied that paint across canvasses. The material animal had been in their hands already for years. Why not put the pig itself into their painted works.
Also, the average farm pig in Brittany was not a wide ranging rooter. We can be sure they lackadaisically stood still for portraiture. And often, these pigs had an attendant person along to keep an eye on them. This was the simple recipe for a classic “rural scene” so sought after by painters to paint because buyers in the cities were craving scenes of the authentic French countryside and working people.
It is the assertion of this retrospective collection that the first impressionists established a pig painting tradition that has since been taken up and championed by many Impressionists and post-impressionists, as well as Cloisonnists, Cubists, Fauvists, Avant-gardes, Japonists, Synthetists and many more artistic practitioners.
Each painter in this collection has delineated their personal version of the pig and posed this challenge: do as well or better to this most artistically demanding creature. And remember, with honor, that the pig gave up so many bristles and bladders for the betterment of our art.
Art is but an reflection of the various ways the needs and the judgments of people develop. We all go our own way, with our own learned and assumed opinions. I hope everyone finds something interesting here, some beauty or some interest to pursue. And may you be sent off along the pig paths of this world with a silk purse of useful contemplations about the pig.
Thank you all for visiting, and I hope you enjoy your time here,
Porkopolis Editor, Curator and Swineherd
Artists & Plen air Pigs
Here is a
detailed alphabetical list
of all the artists with works on exhibition here
that illustrate how Brittany’s pigs energized Impressionism.
please view the thumbnail links below:
The works on display here came to my attention from an incongruous collection of sources. My efforts to discover, uncover and detail these works were only possible with the support of my family and friends.
I also wish to acknowledge the generosity of a few anonymous individuals who are regular patrons of Porkopolis.org Art Museum and Library. Aid and advice was also given by an unprecedented cadre of perceptive pig-prizing private art collectors who frequent the Porkopolis.org Art Museum. For although my own judgement was the final determining factor, these patrons and collectors form the basis for the sources and suggestions used to root out and compile this retrospective.
I must also acknowledge the many works on loan from venerated museums worldwide. These institutions were willing to loan out certain works in their possession, though again expressing their disenchantment with the Porkopolis.org Art Museum’s mission – the promotion of pig-themed art.
Porkopolis Editor, Curator and Swineherd