Selected works may include depictions of: the “human-animal bond,” animals grieving for humans and/or other animals, humans grieving for a beloved animal, themes of connecting to nature, and/or themes of burials. Gallery curated by Eric Greene.
Note: All artwork may not depict literal themes of death or bereavement, but have been selected for their poignancy, symbolism or mood. Paintings and drawings are presented chronologically.
Death of the Historical Buddha
Death of the Historical Bddha. For more information, read here.
Gerrit Dou, Sleeping Dog Beside a Terracotta Jug
Edwin Henry Landseer, The Old Sheperd’s Chief Mourner
Historian Keri Cronin writes: “this painting became an important part of animal advocacy campaigns in the 19th century…in March 1881, it was reproduced on the pages of Our Dumb Animals, the publication of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA), and declared to be “eminently appropriate” for this publication.” Read more at Our Hen House.
William Holman Hunt, The Scapegoat
The Scapegoat was one of the best known, and somewhat controversial, religious paintings of the 19th century. It references an observance among ancient Hebrews as described in Leviticus, as inscribed on the painting’s frame: ‘And the Goat shall bear upon him all their Iniquities unto a Land not inhabited.’ Read more here.
James Archer, A Dog Mourning Its Little Master
August Friedrich Schenk, Anguish
Briton Riviere, Sympathy
Riviere’s Sympathy was among the most well-known animal portraits of the day, as discussed by the Royal Holloway Collection: The Spectator made an important point: Riviere was the natural successor to Landseer, who had died in 1873, and that he had even surpassed Landseer in his own way, ‘for he has given feeling to his animals, and yet kept them strictly within their own nature . . . Never attempting to render in his works human expression in a dog’s face, he has nevertheless mastered the points where canine and human nature touch, and painted them with an insight and comprehension with which no other artist of whom we know can at all compare’. Read more
The painting has had a resurgence since 2007 when an artist rendered the dog as a ghost.
Anna Merritt, Portrait de Minna Sophia Farrer tenant un lapin
Briton Rivière, Requiescat
Arthur Heyer, White Cat and Two Brimstone Butterflies
Vincent van Gogh, Tree Roots
Erika Carter, Untitled
Matthew Inman. I have Firsthand Experience with an Undead Parrot
From the graphic series published in The Oatmeal. See part two, focusing on Grump’s burial, here.
For a moving story about the life, trauma and death of Malachi, a captured coral pink Moluccan Cockatoo, read psychologist Gay Bradshaw’s memorial here.
revised September 3, 2014