A tribute to wildlife artists

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Photo: Presbytère de Saint Nicolas

Pierre Leduc Indri

Animals have always fascinated humans and as far as we can go in time, men have made images of animals. Of course, when the prehistoric men were making such images on cave walls, they were not thinking of making art.

Although we don't know for sure why they were made, it is believed that they had a religious or ceremonial purpose. The simplicity of these images, their linear aspect the lack of concern for details lead us to think that their execution was rather quick in comparison with the photorealist images that we are familiar with today, some of which are on exhibition at the parish house in the village of St. Nicolas (Levis).

The earliest scientific wildlife images were created around the 17th century in Europe. But, for a long time, wild animals were not a theme as such. In both western and non western art, wild animals were often elements of a larger picture. It is only in recent times that this genre became something to admire aesthetically, and to collect. Of course, man's developing interest in his environment is largely responsible for this growing trend. Magazines like National Geographic have popularised such images and organisations like the Fondation de la Faune du Québec and Héritage Faune who have largely contributed to the show have been an encouragement for wildlife artists of Canada.

Besides their documentary aspect, such productions can allow viewers to enter safely in the world of wild animals and make an enlightening and fascinating experience. Taking photographs of animals in the wild requires a lot of patience and the task of selecting "the picture" out of hundreds of prints.

Computer programs available today can be helpful but can also make the photographer move away from the authenticity of the image. Drawing or painting wild life is a totally different game. Of course many artists do work from photographs. Although it seems easy, it however requires excellent draftsmanship, an extraordinary sense of details because it's important to achieve scientific accuracy and to be truthful in rendering the habitat of the animal that is represented.

Other artists do it the hard way.

It is interesting to see a video presented at the exhibition showing the world in which Monique Benoit and her daughter Gisèle live, a documentary made by Reynald Benoit inviting us to share the passion of this family. Their approach is to become familiar with the animal, to know him to the point that they will not need to ask for the impossible: having the model stand still.

Several artists participate in this exhibition, a first for the region ( the complete list can be seen of the parish house website http://www.presbyteresaintnicolas.com/) but it may be of interest to mention that signed prints of Robert Bateman, among others are on sale. The exhibition, a must see for nature lovers, will be run until September 5, 2010 and is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 11:00 AM to 5:00OM.