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Animals in Art



Let's Monkey Around
Pablo Picasso, <I>Baboon and Young</I>, 1951, bronze, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, gift of funds of the John Cowles Foundation, © Estate of Pablo Picasso/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
zoom Pablo Picasso, Baboon and Young, 1951, bronze, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, gift of funds of the John Cowles Foundation, © Estate of Pablo Picasso/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Late in his life, the artist Pablo Picasso became a father again, with the birth of his son, Claude, in 1947, and daughter, Paloma, in 1949. Picasso’s young children inspired new artistic ideas, and soon he was focusing on the subject of motherhood. In his art he explored the relationships between human mothers and children, and likewise animal mothers and their young.

What kind of animal mother and young are featured here? The long muzzle, close-set eyes, round belly, and straight tail gives us visual clues that this is a baboon. If you look a little closer you may be amazed at the objects Picasso used to form the figure. The head is made up of two toy cars that may have belonged to the artist’s young son. The body appears to be created from a large ceramic jug. And the tail could be a metal slat from a shutter or a car spring. Picasso added plaster and clay to form the furry neck and other details. After assembling all of the parts, he cast the sculpture in bronze.

Attached to the mother baboon’s chest is an abstract form of an infant baboon. Although there aren’t any recognizable features on the infant, its body position mimics the way a baby baboon clings to its mother. Female baboons tend to be the primary caregivers of their young and for the first month of the youngster’s life, mother and baby stick close together.


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1. A closer look reveals the toy cars used to make the baboon’s head.
2. The handle of the ceramic jug helps form the baboon’s shoulder.
3. Infant babies hold on tightly to their mothers’ bodies. Take a moment to compare this photograph to Baboon and Young.
Picture Taker 2, Baboon Family, 2006, digital photograph by Picture Taker 2 on flickr.com

 

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April 2008