As part of the preparation for our 20 years celebrations, our Chinese Bronzes and Women’s Library collections will be closed from Monday 26 February, reopening with the rest of our new season on Thursday 21 March.

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Curious Beasts

Animal Prints from the British Museum

Sat 5 October 2013, 11.00amSun 15 December 2013, 5.00pm

Curious Beasts

This exhibition explores our enduring curiosity about the animal world through beautiful and bizarre imagery found in prints of the 15th to the early 19th  centuries in the British Museum’s collection. The exhibition features prints by well-known artists including Albrecht Dürer, Francisco de Goya and George Stubbs,  alongside lesser known and rarely seen treasures.

At the time they were created these easily transportable and comparatively affordable prints were accessible to many levels of society and today provide a  fascinating record of early modern imagination and creativity.

The exhibition is curated around three main themes:

Allegorical animals: symbolism and story which explores the symbolic significance of creatures and the moral stories that they were used to tell. These are illustrated in religious prints depicting popular biblical stories such as the temptation in the Garden of Eden and Jonah and the whale, and other narrative subjects including classical mythology and fables, proverbs and allegories, political satire and popular beliefs.



Observing animals: natural history studies charts how prints of all kinds of animals, including newly discovered species, played a vital role in the dissemination of information around the world.  These observational works provide us with a fascinating insight into the ways that artists contributed to natural historical knowledge, and show how artists used a range of techniques, including copying the observations (and mistakes) of others, to create ‘naturalistic’ images of animals.

Encountering animals: the intimate and the everyday shows how animals formed an integral part of life in the early modern period through farming and entertainments such as bull-baiting, in noisy, messy and sometimes violent encounters. Exotic creatures also entered everyday life as fashionable accessories and in menagerie exhibits, and were satirized and documented for posterity in turn by printmakers.

The exhibition includes works created through a variety of different printmaking processes including engraving, woodcut, mezzotint, etching and drypoint.

Visitors to the exhibition will be able to find out about these processes through a demonstration by printer in residence Kate Da’Casto from Leicester Print Workshop before having a go at printmaking themselves.

There will also be an family activity where families can meet some real life curious beasts.

Included in exhibition admisssion.

This exhibition is organised in partnership with the British Museum.