The wonderfully named, pre-First World War artist, Rembrandt Bugatti immortalised exotic animals in bronze.
Now a major retrospective of work has opened at the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin.
Philipp Demandt is the gallery director: “I think Bugatti was a very serious artist. He did not portray animals as heroic or them fighting or as status symbols for the upper classes. Rather, he went to this separate world in the zoo because it was a safe place where he felt protected, and he used this world, with its abundance of shapes and colours and movement, with a great seriousness and that makes him very special.”
In fact Bugatti never laid eyes on Africa or Asia.
He was born in 1884 in Milan, Italy into an artistic family and soon became interested in bronze work.
He never had formal training but showed his works at a first solo exhibition at the age of 16.
Like many artists at the time Bugatti visited the zoological gardens to get inspiration from the large and exotic animals.
He would often spend weeks just observing an animal before starting work on a subject.
Anke Daemgen is curator at the gallery: “He would put an apple on the other side of the enclosure so the elephants had to twist and stretch to get it. In that way he was able to observe the nimbleness of these huge animals and represent it in the sculptures.”
The First World War led to a collapse in the art market and the culling of zoo animals for food it was all to much for the young artist who gassed himself in his studio in 1916 at the age of 31.