David Musgrave

Animal

1998

Not on display

Artist
David Musgrave born 1973
Medium
Resin and enamel paint
Dimensions
Object: 215 x 143 x 30 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 2012
Reference
T13657

Summary

Animal 1998 is a small wall-based sculpture in resin and enamel by the English artist David Musgrave. Resembling the kind of anatomical model found in biology classes and training hospitals, it imagines the bisected anatomy of a large-headed animal figure seen in profile. From the outline, the figure is recognisable as Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s pet dog in the long running American comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz. Musgrave painted the sculpture according to the conventions of anatomical models – the outline is rendered in a beige skin tone; the cavities of the mouth and nose are red; bones are white; and where the organs are close together, they are differentiated with more unnatural colours such as blue and green.

Musgrave initially made Animal out of modelling putty, which he then cast in resin and painted. The main source for this sculpture was a line drawing he made of the same subject, in which he made use of the conventions of anatomical diagrams, showing the figure in profile and dissected to reveal the skeleton and internal organs. Musgrave wished to make a sculpture from the drawing in order to play on the conditions of anatomical models in the same way that his initial drawing related to medical diagrams. Animal is an early work that can be seen as a starting point for Musgrave’s ongoing interest in the anthropomorphic form. He has commented:

I was more interested in producing a biomorphic but essentially abstract form than something that would make anatomical sense (it doesn’t). It’s an important work for me because it conflates recognition, abstraction, the imaginary and the concrete in a single form. I haven’t used such a culturally familiar source since and probably won’t, but the scale and the themes of this sculpture have remained absolutely central.
(David Musgrave, email correspondence with Tate curator Katharine Stout, 9 May 2012.)

At face value the imagined anatomy – especially the huge brain within the outsize head, compared to the tiny organs in the abdomen – emphasises the abstraction employed by Schulz in his original drawing. The employment of the anatomical model, however, contrasts the levity of a timeless and much-loved cartoon character with the jarring suggestion of unsustainable deformity and medical illness. By trying to impose an unwelcome level of reality on a figure universally recognisable as a dog, Animal plays with the expectation of the viewer.

Musgrave often makes a number of works using the same subject matter and much of his work is reductive in form while revealing the details of its construction. For example, Transparent Stick Figure 2009 (Tate T13565) is a wall-mounted sculpture that represents a basic stick figure made from transparent resin.

Further reading
Living Dust, exhibition catalogue, Norwich Gallery 2004.
Recognition: Anna Barriball and David Musgrave, exhibition catalogue, Arnolfini, Bristol 2004.

Katharine Stout
May 2012
Arthur Goodwin
January 2018

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Display caption

Animal is a wall-based sculpture based on the imagined anatomical structure of Charles M Schulz’s cartoon character ‘Snoopy’. The main source for this sculpture was a line drawing Musgrave made of the same subject, in which he called upon the conventions of anatomical diagrams. Musgrave commented that this work ‘conflates recognition, abstraction, the imaginary and the concrete in a single form’.

Gallery label, September 2016

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