JACKSON, Wyo. — On April 27, the National Museum of Wildlife Art (NMWA) announced “Survival of the Fittest: Envisioning Wildlife and Wilderness with the Big Four, Masterworks from the Rijksmuseum Twenthe and the National Museum of Wildlife Art,” will open on May 27.
The exhibition will be on view through Aug. 20.
According to the NMWA press release, the exhibition title references Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species,” which shaped how Western cultures envisioned human-animal relationships. After Darwin, a group of classically trained painters now known as the Big Four emerged and helped establish a vision of wildlife and nature that remains with Western cultures today.
The Big Four included German Richard Friese (1854–1918), the Big Four’s elder, followed chronologically by Swede Bruno Liljefors (1860–1939), German Wilhelm Kuhnert (1865–1926) and German-American Carl Rungius (1869–1959).
The NMWA is one of only two museums in the world to hold masterpieces by each member of the Big Four. The other is the Rijksmuseum Twenthe in Enschede, Netherlands.
“These four artists came at a point in Western history where they were able to travel into the field and study wildlife in its natural environment,” says Grainger/Kerr Director of the Carl Rungius Catalogue Raisonné Adam Duncan Harris, Ph.D. Harris curated the new exhibit. “Earlier artists didn’t have that opportunity or the cultural impact of Darwin’s scientific work.”
The press release states that “Survival of the Fittest” is the first major piece of scholarship to come out of the Museum’s multiyear Carl Rungius Catalogue Raisonné project. The exhibition will feature forty-five masterworks.
“…alternate ways of understanding can provide valuable insight when thinking about humanity’s always-changing relationship with the wild.”
“’Survival of the Fittest’ contextualizes the work of the Big Four internationally within the frames of colonialism, Darwinism, art history, land and wildlife conservation and Indigenous peoples’ ways of seeing nature,” Harris says. “It addresses current conversations about large-scale land conservation, hunting, endangered species, wildlife-migration corridors, rewilding efforts, Indigenous visions of nature and how alternate ways of understanding can provide valuable insight when thinking about humanity’s always-changing relationship with the wild.”
After its premiere at the NMWA, “Survival of the Fittest” will tour to five additional venues across the United States.
This content was originally published here.