Friday, July 29, 2011

Loaded for Bear

It's very hard to paint ferocity, especially on a small scale. But this doesn't keep self-taught artists from trying and, as usual, we are the beneficiaries of their efforts. Here is another example.

This small watercolor, about 8 x 10 inches, was found in Binghamton, New York, a small city along the Pennsylvania border. It is called, for obvious reasons, "The Bear Hunters." Actually, I'm not overly fond of that title; this doesn't look like a bear hunt to me. Rather it appears that the two gentlemen and their dog have encountered a bear unexpectedly. The man in orange seems to be raising his axe in self defense. I'm not a hunter, but I'm pretty sure you don't consciously hunt bears with an axe. The other man, in blue, also seems to be in a defensive posture, holding his rifle sideways as if to deflect a blow.

The charm in this piece lies in the bared teeth of the dog and the bear, and in particular the problems in scale that the artist had with the latter. This particular diminutive bear does not seem to pose much of a threat to two armed men and a dog.

Unless there's a mama nearby. Enjoy the watercolor and have a great weekend.


  1. I agree with you that the bear meet-up was unexpected. I love the colors in this piece.

  2. Dr. D'Ambrosio, I am educated but not in art other than the minimal undergrad course of art history and a great deal of self education. But this piece fits a theory of mine that folk artists often portray people in their work as larger than the animals as a subconscious manifestation of the Biblical injunction to "have dominion" over the beasts. The work of Earnest Patton, of the Red River School of Appalachian Folk Art, is the first and most clear cut example of the concept I have ever seen. Is it a valid theory?


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