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Between Chalk and Paint: Oudry's Leopard and Leopardess

Oudry made so many different kinds of drawings that it is often hard to tell what relationship they have to his paintings. Did he make a particular drawing to prepare a painting, or did he make it after the painting was completed so that he would have a record of it? Or might Oudry have made a drawing at some intermediate point, when he had begun working on a painting but encountered some challenge that he preferred to tackle on paper before proceeding?

I think the drawings of the Leopard and Leopardess, which correspond to the two life-size paintings of the same animals, might fall into this category of an "intermediate preparatory" drawing. They are unusual among Oudry's drawings for their minimalism, with each animal rendered simply as outlines in black chalk.

Leopard / Oudry Leopardess / Oudry
Leopard / Oudry Leopardess / Oudry
Clockwise from top left: Study of a Leopard, 1740, chalk on paper; Study of a Leopardess, 1740, chalk on paper; Leopardess, 1741, oil on canvas; Leopard, 1741, oil on canvas
All images: Staatliches Museum Schwerin


The drawings show the Leopard and Leopardess in the same postures as the paintings, and there is an exact correspondence between the white chalk highlights on each drawing and the white paint on each animal's body in the paintings. I wonder if Oudry had already established the poses he would use in the paintings, allowing him to quickly draw them in outline before proceeding to his real (and ever-present) concern for properly rendering light effects.


Re: Between Chalk and Paint: Oudry's Leopard and Leopardess

What is the light source in Oudry's leopard painting? It almost seems to be emanating from the rocks -- it's very theatrical, even artificial. That light source doesn't appear the drawing of the same subject.

Re: Between Chalk and Paint: Oudry's Leopard and Leopardess

I was always curious as to the anatomical accuracy of painters during this era. Have you discussed on this blog whether or not the rhino and leopards were accurately represented? (physically and anatomically)

In the article "Between Chalk and Paint" it appears that the leopard's facsimile is well represented, but on a closer examination--the leopards are quite off....they look like large domesticated cats. You can tell even by the outlines, the artist does not understand skeletal or anatomical structure very well...

I know there has been a great deal of paintings of rhinos which were fabricated. A lot of artists got 2nd hand information of these animals and often filled the gaps with imaginative license.

In the blog entry On the Wonders and Dangers of Exotic Beasts, the dog-like elephant exemplifies my point to some degree. Maybe you can discuss how far Oudry went in order to represent the anatomical aspects of the animals depicted...do you have more sketches?

Re: Between Chalk and Paint: Oudry's Leopard and Leopardess

After working on Oudry, my personal opinion is that he really wasn't interested in representing animals in a scientifically accurate way. For him they were artistic subjects pure and simple - he doesn't seem to have been interested in natural history as an intellectual pursuit. He certainly didn't attend animal anatomy classes or record animal behavior in the same way artists like Pieter Boel or George Stubbs did. To me, he seems to rely much more on representations of animals rather than observations of them for his own art - he may have seen this as being artistically more "inventive." Others, I think, have a much different opinion...

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