Teaching Resource

Animals in Art

Discover animal artworks and fun activities to use in your classroom

Colin Self, ‘Power and Beauty No. 6’ 1968
Colin Self
Power and Beauty No. 6 1968
Tate
© Colin Self. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2018

Contents

Introduction

Animals have been a source of inspiration for many artists. From art about rural life and growth, to myths and legends, animals are used in art in many different ways. Art can help us explore our relationship to wildlife and can help us think about how we care for animals and the environment.

Below we have some hands-on activities and questions to help you and your class discover animal artworks in the Tate collection. The artworks, questions and activities are suitable for KS1 and KS2 students.

A selection of animal artworks

Richard Patterson, ‘Painted Minotaur’ 1996–7
Richard Patterson
Painted Minotaur 1996–7
Tate
© Richard Patterson
Marc Chagall, ‘The Green Donkey’ 1911
Marc Chagall
The Green Donkey 1911
Tate
© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2018
León Ferrari, ‘[no title]’ 2001, reproduced 2007
León Ferrari
[no title] 2001, reproduced 2007
Tate
© Leon Ferrari
Bill Woodrow, ‘Elephant’ 1984
Bill Woodrow
Elephant 1984
Tate
© Bill Woodrow
Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, ‘Study of a Lion’ c.1862
Sir Edwin Henry Landseer
Study of a Lion c.1862
Tate
Raymond Duchamp-Villon, ‘Large Horse’ 1914, cast 1961
Raymond Duchamp-Villon
Large Horse 1914, cast 1961
Tate

Nature and the environment

When it comes to animals, exploring habitats is one of the central themes for artists. With a world of textures, colours and shapes to explore, nature is an exciting feature in many artworks.

Animals in artworks can make us consider our own relationship to nature. How do we treat wildlife and its environment? Are there some animals we look after more than others?

Animals live in a complex network of environments. This is called an ecosystem. Artists like to explore these ecosystems to tell stories. What kind of stories are the artists telling in the artworks below?

Under the sea

John Skeaping, ‘Fish’ 1929–30
John Skeaping
Fish 1929–30
Tate
© The estate of John Skeaping
Eileen Agar, ‘Marine Object’ 1939
Eileen Agar
Marine Object 1939
Tate
© The estate of Eileen Agar
John Piper, ‘Beach with Starfish’ c.1933–4
John Piper
Beach with Starfish c.1933–4
Tate
© The Piper Estate
Brett Weston, ‘Tide pool, Point Lobos’ 1974
Brett Weston
Tide pool, Point Lobos 1974
Lent by the Tate Americas Foundation, courtesy of Christian Keesee Collection 2013
© Estate of Brett Weston. All rights reserved 2018 / Bridgeman Images.
Colin Self, ‘Still Life with Art Deco Goldfish Bowl, Curtain and Shells’ 1969
Colin Self
Still Life with Art Deco Goldfish Bowl, Curtain and Shells 1969
Tate
© Colin Self. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2018
Damien Hirst, ‘Forms Without Life’ 1991
Damien Hirst
Forms Without Life 1991
Tate
© Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.
Marcel Mariën, ‘Star Dancer’ 1991
Marcel Mariën
Star Dancer 1991
Tate
© DACS, 2018
Bernard Leach, ‘Fish Vase’ 1973–4
Bernard Leach
Fish Vase 1973–4
Tate
© The estate of Bernard Leach

Here are some questions to think about with your class.

  • What colours are associated with sea life? Why do you think that is?
  • How would you describe the artworks above?
  • How do the artworks above make you feel?
  • What do you think these artworks sound like?

Rainforests

Helmut Federle, ‘Amazon, Peru, 1988’ 1999–2000
Helmut Federle
Amazon, Peru, 1988 1999–2000
Tate
© Helmut Federle
Charles Dufresne, ‘Spahi Attacked by a Lion’ 1919
Charles Dufresne
Spahi Attacked by a Lion 1919
Tate
Spencer Gore, ‘Study for a Mural Decoration for ‘The Cave of the Golden Calf’’ 1912
Spencer Gore
Study for a Mural Decoration for ‘The Cave of the Golden Calf’ 1912
Tate
Paul Rebeyrolle, ‘Frogs’ 1966
Paul Rebeyrolle
Frogs 1966
Tate
© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2018
Brett Whiteley, ‘5. Giraffe’ 1965
Brett Whiteley
5. Giraffe 1965
Tate
© reserved
Jeff Koons, ‘MONKEY (Red-Orange)’ 1999
Jeff Koons
MONKEY (Red-Orange) 1999
Tate / National Galleries of Scotland
© Jeff Koons
John Macallan Swan
Head of a Tiger
Tate
Henry Moore OM, CH, ‘Leopard’ 1981
Henry Moore OM, CH
Leopard 1981
Tate
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
  • What kind of animals live in rainforests?
  • Describe the patterns that you can see in the artworks above.
  • What materials are used to make the artwork above? What’s the difference between taking a photograph and making a collage?
  • Look at the artwork by Spencer Gore. Is that place real? Why do you think he has chosen those colours? How do you feel when you look at this artwork?
  • How important is it that animals in artwork look like real animals?

Habitats in danger

Briton Riviere, ‘Beyond Man’s Footsteps’ exhibited 1894
Briton Riviere
Beyond Man’s Footsteps exhibited 1894
Tate
Nicholas Monro, ‘Animals Running Through Fire’ 1970
Nicholas Monro
Animals Running Through Fire 1970
Tate
© Nicholas Monro
Mitch Epstein, ‘Biloxi, Mississippi 2005’ 2005
Mitch Epstein
Biloxi, Mississippi 2005 2005
Tate
© Mitch Epstein/Black River Productions, Ltd.
Mitch Epstein, ‘BP Carson Refinery, California’ 2007
Mitch Epstein
BP Carson Refinery, California 2007
Lent by the American Fund for the Tate Gallery, courtesy of the North American Acquisitions Committee 2011
© Mitch Epstein/Black River Productions, Ltd.
Paula Rego, ‘Flood’ 1996
Paula Rego
Flood 1996
Tate
© Paula Rego
Sir Sidney Nolan, ‘Desert Storm’ c.1955
Sir Sidney Nolan
Desert Storm c.1955
Tate
© Sidney Nolan Trust. All Rights Reserved, 2018 / Bridgeman Images
Keith Arnatt, ‘Miss Grace’s Lane’ 1986–7
Keith Arnatt
Miss Grace’s Lane 1986–7
Tate
© Keith Arnatt Estate
  • In 100 years time, what do you think natural environments will look like? What will cities look like?
  • What kind of events do you see happening above? Is there anything we can do to stop events like this happening?
  • What colours and textures do you associate with natural environments compared to man-made environments?
  • Why do you think the artists have made these artworks? What are they trying to say?

Out of nature

Brett Whiteley, ‘2. Swinging Monkey’ 1965
Brett Whiteley
2. Swinging Monkey 1965
Tate
© reserved
Eileen Agar, ‘Photograph of Lubetkin’s Penguin Pool at London Zoo’ [1940s–1950s]
Eileen Agar
Photograph of Lubetkin’s Penguin Pool at London Zoo [1940s–1950s]
Tate Archive
© Tate
Carel Weight, ‘Allegro Strepitoso’ 1932
Carel Weight
Allegro Strepitoso 1932
Tate
© The Estate of Carel Weight
Christopher Wood, ‘Zebra and Parachute’ 1930
Christopher Wood
Zebra and Parachute 1930
Tate
Laura Ford, ‘Moose’ 1998
Laura Ford
Moose 1998
Tate
© Laura Ford
Damien Hirst, ‘Away from the Flock’ 1994
Damien Hirst
Away from the Flock 1994
Tate / National Galleries of Scotland
© Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2018. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd
  • What happens when we take animals out of their natural habitat? How does it change the way we look at them?
  • Look at Damien Hirst’s artwork Away from the Flock. Why do you think he put the sheep in a box like that? What could it mean?
  • In Zebra and Parachute there is an unusual collection of elements that makes it look surreal. How did that zebra get there? Could you write story about this artwork?

5 minute activity

Habitat mix-up

What you will need

  • Pencil crayons
  • Paper

Instructions

  • Write down lots of different habitats. Add them into a hat. Do the same for lots of different types of animals in a separate hat.
  • Split your group into pairs.
  • Get them to pick an animal and a habitat out of the hats.
  • Get one to draw the animal and the other to draw the habitat
  • Have them cut out the animal and stick it on their partners habitat
  • Discuss what they have made. Does the animal belong there? If not, why not? What else could they add to that habitat?

30 minute activity

collage

What you will need

  • A4 paper
  • Glue
  • Coloured paper
  • Tissue paper
  • Glitter
  • Any natural objects (feathers, tree bark, shells, flowers)

Instructions

  • Get each pupil to create a collage based on a chosen habitat. Encourage them to play with colour, shape and different textures. Ask them to think about humans impact on the environment.

Quiz: Which art monster are you?

Take our personality test and discover which arty creature you are

myths and legends

Mythical creatures have long been an inspiration for artists. The Ancient Greeks had tales of The Minotaur and Cerberus. Artist John Davie's creation Dogman is part dog, part human. Leonora Carrington uses her dreams to create surreal beasts. Can your class recognise any of these fantastical creatures?

Lois Fine, ‘Sphinx’ 1972
Lois Fine
Sphinx 1972
Tate
© reserved
George Frederic Watts, ‘The Minotaur’ 1885
George Frederic Watts
The Minotaur 1885
Tate
after John Flaxman, ‘Cacus’ 1807
after John Flaxman
Cacus 1807
Tate
Germaine Richier, ‘The Bat’ 1946, cast 1996
Germaine Richier
The Bat 1946, cast 1996
Lent from a private collection 2000
© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2018
John Davies, ‘Dogman’ 1972
John Davies
Dogman 1972
Tate
© John Davies, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art, London
Leonora Carrington, ‘Do You Know My Aunt Eliza?’ 1941
Leonora Carrington
Do You Know My Aunt Eliza? 1941
Tate
© The estate of the artist, DACS, 2018
Erté (Romain de Tirtoff), ‘Number Three’ 1968
Erté (Romain de Tirtoff)
Number Three 1968
Tate
© Sevenarts Ltd. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2018
William Blake, ‘Cerberus’ 1824–7
William Blake
Cerberus 1824–7
Tate
Jake Chapman, Dinos Chapman, ‘Exquisite Corpse’ 2000
Jake Chapman, Dinos Chapman
Exquisite Corpse 2000
Tate
© Jake and Dinos Chapman

Animals in stories


It's not just fantastical animals that feature in artwork. Animals are shown in art behaving like us humans! Activities like talking, knitting and wearing clothes are a few examples. Your class probably knows of children's stories where this is common, such as Peppa Pig! What traits would these animals have if they were human?

Gavin Turk, ‘Metamorphosis’ 2000
Gavin Turk
Metamorphosis 2000
Tate
© Gavin Turk
Helen Beatrix Potter, ‘Lady Mouse in Mob Cap’ c.1902
Helen Beatrix Potter
Lady Mouse in Mob Cap c.1902
Tate
Warwick Moreton, ‘The Gang I’ 1973
Warwick Moreton
The Gang I 1973
Tate
© Warwick Moreton
Karel Appel, ‘Hip, Hip, Hoorah!’ 1949
Karel Appel
Hip, Hip, Hoorah! 1949
Tate
© Karel Appel Foundation
Yinka Shonibare, MBE, ‘Grain Weevil’ 2000
Yinka Shonibare, MBE
Grain Weevil 2000
Tate
© Yinka Shonibare, courtesy Stephen Friedman Gallery, London
Graham Sutherland OM, ‘4. The Snake’ 1978–9
Graham Sutherland OM
4. The Snake 1978–9
Tate
© The estate of Graham Sutherland

Let's discuss

With these artworks, ask your class:

  • Why would they use an animal instead of a human?
  • What qualities do certain animals have?
  • Can your class think of names for these creatures?
  • What other creatures can they combine?
  • What special abilities might they have?

5 minute activity

Drawing

Get each child to sketch an image of a fictional beast. They can use their imagination or combine animals that already exist. You can even get them to name them and introduce their beast to the rest of the class.

Growth

Jeff Koons, ‘Caterpillar (with chains)’ 2002
Jeff Koons
Caterpillar (with chains) 2002
Tate / National Galleries of Scotland
© Jeff Koons
Kurt Schwitters, ‘Mother and Egg’ c.1945–7
Kurt Schwitters
Mother and Egg c.1945–7
Lent by Geoff Thomas 1991
© DACS, 2018
Francis Barlow, ‘Cock, Hen and Sparrows’ 1680
Francis Barlow
Cock, Hen and Sparrows 1680
Tate
Michael Landy, ‘Creeping Buttercup’ 2002
Michael Landy
Creeping Buttercup 2002
Tate
© Michael Landy
William Henry Hunt
Primroses and Bird’s Nest
Tate
Brett Weston, ‘Leaves and Plants, Hawaii’ 1979
Brett Weston
Leaves and Plants, Hawaii 1979
Lent by the Tate Americas Foundation, courtesy of Christian Keesee Collection 2013
© Estate of Brett Weston. All rights reserved 2018 / Bridgeman Images.
Henri Matisse, ‘The Dancer’ 1949
Henri Matisse
The Dancer 1949
Tate
© Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2018
Edwina Sandys, ‘Daffodils’ 1974
Edwina Sandys
Daffodils 1974
Tate
© Edwina Sandys
Ai Weiwei, ‘Sunflower Seeds’ 2010
Ai Weiwei
Sunflower Seeds 2010
Tate
© Ai Weiwei
Prunella Clough, ‘Pimentoes’ 1954
Prunella Clough
Pimentoes 1954
Tate
© The estate of Prunella Clough
David Shrigley, ‘Carrots’ 1999
David Shrigley
Carrots 1999
Tate
© David Shrigley
Joe Tilson, ‘Mother Earth’ 1972
Joe Tilson
Mother Earth 1972
Tate
© Joe Tilson. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2018
  • Why do artists make art about eggs? What can eggs represent?
  • Look at the Joe Tilson's Mother Earth. Who is Mother Earth? Why is she a Mother rather than a Father?
  • In Ai WeiWei's artwork Sunflower Seeds, the artist used millions of seeds to create his work. These seeds aren't real seeds though, they are made of porcelain. What do you think this artwork is about? Why didn't he use real seeds?

30 Minute Activity

Animal Sculpture

Angus Fairhurst, ‘A Couple of Differences Between Thinking and Feeling II’ 2003
Angus Fairhurst
A Couple of Differences Between Thinking and Feeling II 2003
Tate
© The estate of Angus Fairhurst

    What you will need:

    • Newspaper
    • Masking tape
    • Paint

    Instructions

    • Choose an animal
    • Create a torso and different body parts by rolling up the newspaper
    • Stick different animal parts together with glue and masking tape
    • Once you have the shape completed, wrap each part of the whole animal in masking tape
    • When dry, paint your sculpture

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