Timken Museum of Art Celebrates the San Diego Zoo’s 100th Anniversary with Animal-Themed Exhibition This Fall

Several of Balboa Park’s esteemed institutions celebrate the Zoo’s centennial; Timken to feature fascinating, priceless works of art representing animals across several centuries

Inspired by the San Diego Zoo’s 100th Anniversary, the Timken joins six prominent Balboa Park institutions in a collaboration of animal-themed exhibitions for 2016.

The Timken’s exhibition, Blessed Beasts and Curious Creatures: Animal Processionals from the 13th to the 21st Centuries, runs September 23 through December 11, 2016 and examines humanity’s changing relationship with animals, nature, and the world through Western art.

"The project grew out of a collaborative desire to join in and celebrate the Zoo's 100th anniversary. With partners, The J. Paul Getty Museum and the University of San Diego, and the cooperation of artist Kiki Smith, we have the chance to study some compelling depictions of the animal kingdom,” said Timken Curatorial Director Derrick R. Cartwright, PhD.

Two of the objects in the exhibition, Jan Brueghel the Elder’s The Entry of Animals into Noah’s Ark and a Medieval bestiary are on loan from The J. Paul Getty Museum. Both museums showcase many of the same artists, frequently loan each other works of art, have guest speakers and travel trips.

“From biblical treatments in Medieval bestiaries, to late Renaissance treatments of Noah's ark, to scientific treatises from the Enlightenment, to contemporary views based in modern fiction, this focused exhibition offers an opportunity to think deeply about the ways in which the zoological world has been explained differently over time. Taken together, the works are dazzling and this will be a show that visitors young and old will enjoy,” said Cartwright.


More about Blessed Beasts and Curious Creatures: Animal Processionals from the 13th to the 21st Centuries

This fascinating exhibition offers a view of the creation and presentation of visual art portraying animals with the intent to stretch the viewer’s perception of the changing relationship humans have with animals, nature and the world.

A 13-century English Medieval bestiary manuscript, Jan Brueghel the Elder’s brilliant rare composition, The Entry Of The Animals Into Noah's Ark, and a large-scale contemporary print by artist Kiki Smith, Pool of Tears 2 (after Lewis Carroll), will complete the exhibition.

“In our unique role as the jewel box of fine art in San Diego and one of the finest small museums in the world, the Timken is perfectly positioned to partner with the world-renowned San Diego Zoo as it celebrates its centennial anniversary,” stated Megan Pogue, executive director of the Timken Museum of Art. “We offer our congratulations to the San Diego Zoo, and we welcome all of the Zoo’s well-wishers to the Timken to further experience how animals enrich the planet and immeasurably add to our humanity. 

The progression through time starts with the 13-century English bestiary, which illustrates real and imaginary animals intended to provide readers with moral lessons.

Bestiaries were a kind of Medieval encyclopedia; they explored the world of animals primarily to explain their significance within the worldview. Executed in the colored drawing style that is part of England's distinctive contribution to history of art, each animal has a unique and colorful story depicted in lively and animated terms.

Jan Brueghel the Elder’s painting of The Entry Of The Animals Into Noah's Ark is a paradise landscape that depicts Renaissance zoology, religious views on nature and the culture of collecting and cataloguing animals. The painting features an abundance of animals filling the earth and sky. As they fight, play, fly, and swim, Noah shepherds them toward the ark in the distance.

Appointed as court painter in 1609 to Archduke Albert and the Infanta Isabella, Brueghel studied and drew many of these creatures as live subjects. The discovery of the New World in the 1600s inspired curiosity about natural history and this interest led many European rulers to form menageries of rare live animals.


Contemporary American Artist: Kiki Smith

Finishing the progression is a print by Kiki Smith, a contemporary American artist. Smith illustrates humankind’s relationship with animals, using representations found in visual, literary, and oral histories. She is interested in narratives that speak to collectively shared mythologies including folk tales, biblical stories and Victorian literature. These familiar stories are then fragmented and fused with one another to form new clusters of meaning and association.

Blessed Beasts and Curious Creatures provides a unique opportunity for the San Diego community to think about the ways in which the animal kingdom has been shown and interpreted across 800 years of art history in Europe and the United States.


Interactive Children’s Area 

The installation, imagined by Cartwright, includes a reading area designed to connect visitors with animals through the literary world. Curated selections of books celebrating animal themes compliments the exhibition’s works of art and serve as modern interpretations of bestiaries.

This interactive display for patrons of all ages is a nod to the Timken mission and its belief education is the most significant contribution a museum can make to its community.


Free Admission to the Timken Museum of Art, Balboa Park

The Timken Museum of Art, which offers free admission to the public, is known among both art experts and frequent visitors alike as the “jewel box” of fine art and is one of the finest small museums in the world.  The Timken provides visitors with an accessible and enriching cultural experience and boasts the permanent home of the Putnam Foundation’s significant collection of European Old Masters, 19th century American art and Russian iconsNotable works in the Timken’s collection include: Rembrandt’s Saint Bartholomew, is the only painting by the Dutch master on display in San Diego; Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Parable of the Sower; John Singleton Copley’s Portrait of Mrs. Thomas Gage; Eastman Johnson’s classic, The Cranberry Harvest:  Island of Nantucket; and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot’s View of Volterra


For more information about the Timken Museum of Art please call 619.239.5548 or visit www.timkenmuseum.org.