article has been included on this website for a long
time it now forms part of a series of articles featuring
animals in art. As a person who loves and cares about
animals and an on-line activist for the cause of animal
rights I often paint animals or include animals in some
way in my art work. So I thought it might be interesting
to showcase the work of other artists from the past and
present, both the famous and not so famous who have
chosen animals as subjects or have prominently included
animals in their art. These articles will also include a How To section
where you can find links to art instruction information
concerning the featured animal . Also a How To Help section†with information concerning how you can help whichever animals is the subject of the article.
highlights sheep as they feature in works of art down
through the ages to the present day.
Please click the graphics to
access a larger image.
petroglyph (not to be confused with pictograph) shows a
caravan of bighorn sheep near Moab, Utah, USA.
Petroglyphs are found throughout the world mostly
rendered by prehistoric people, they are made by craving and
incising, rather like engraving. Although the reasons
why they were created is not known it has been suggested
that petroglyphs may have religious or cultural
significance. Petroglyphs may also represent some
kind of symbolic communication or ritualistic language.
It is also thought that they may have been made
by shamans in an altered state of consciousness, induced
perhaps by the use of natural hallucinogens
in the art of stained glass
In western cultures
during the middle ages religion was the subject of most
art. The art of Stained glass painting, which may be
seen in churches and cathedrals from medieval times to the
present day, often features sheep. Sheep are symbolic in the
in religion and mythology and this symbolism is
depicted in many amazing stained glass windows. Here is
a selection from the UK.
This example in in St John's chapel, Ludlow
parish church and dates
from the 15th century.
glass window in Gloucester Cathedral
religious symbolism was and still is a theme throughout
many ages in many art forms such as the example shown
below from the 15th century, the Ghent Altarpiece or
Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, in Dutch Het Lam Gods
the lamb of God .
Section from the Ghent
Altarpiece by Jan van Eyck completed in 1432
Left the Ghent Altarpiece in its entirety
Completed in 1432 the Ghent
Altarpiece, is an early polyptech
panel painting from the Netherlands
painted by Jan van Eyck. The section
above shows the adoration of the
lamb of God, which refers to Jesus'
mission as a sacrificial lamb who by
his sacrifice atones for the sins of
the art of manuscript illumination of the middle ages
again sheep feature in many of these highly decorative
volumes. The example below from the Aberdeen Bestiary
shows three illuminations featuring sheep.
Wolf sneaking up to the sheepfold.
Aberdeen Bestiary 12th century Aberdeen
University Library, Univ. Lib. MS 24
A bestiary in short is a catalogue
of beasts, sometimes plants and minerals were included
also. Such volumes were popular in the middle ages. A
bestiary includes a drawing or highly decorative
illumination of each animal along with a short
description of its
attributes and behaviours. Included are all sorts of
animals both real and imaginary, including sheep.
Bestiaries deal with the natural world, although the
theme of religion still presents as the account of the
immergence of life at this period and is still of course biblical.
Considered one of the best examples of
illuminated manuscripts the Aberdeen bestiary was
written and illuminated in approximately 1200. The
book is lavishly illustrated and contains
the biblical account of the creation story and gives
short but non scientific descriptions, some of which are
amazingly accurate while others are fanciful, along with a
moral lesson. Concerning lambs the writer correctly
observes that sheep are good mothers and a
lamb recognises his or her mother's bleat from amongst
Below is the
translated description of the ram and lamb which
accompanies the graphics above.
Of the wether,
The wether gets its name, vervex, either from its
strength, vires, because it is stronger than other
sheep, or because it is a man, vir, that is, male, or
because it has worms, vermes, in its head; irritated by
the itching which these cause, wethers strike each
other, butting their heads together in combat with great
force. It is also called a ram, aries, from the Greek,
Ares, that is, the god of war; in Latin, Mars; that is
why we call the males in a flock mares. Or because, once
upon a time, this animal was offered as a sacrifice by
pagans on their altars: thus, aries, because it is laid
upon an altar, ara. From which we get: 'the ram is
sacrificed at the altar' (see Exodus, 29:18).
Of the lamb
The lamb is called agnus possibly from the Greek word
agnos, pious. Some think that it gets the Latin form of
its name because, more than any other animal, it
recognises, agnoscere, its mother, so much so that, even
if it strays in the midst of a large flock, it
recognises its mother's voice by her bleat and hurries
to her. It seeks out also the sources of mother's milk
which are familiar to it. The mother recognises her lamb
alone among many thousands of others. Lambs in large
numbers make the same baa-ing noise and look the same,
yet she picks out her offspring among the others and by
her great show of tenderness identifies it as hers
To see the above
graphics and and the descriptions as they appear on the
page of the Bestiary please visit the website of the
University of Aberdeen
A Sheep and Goat, by Chinese painter
Zhao Mengfu. Handscroll, ink on paper, by Zhao
Zhao Mengfu 1254 to
1322 was a Chinese scholar, an eminent
painter in the Chinese tradition of the early Yuan
Dynasty. An artist noted for his versatility, although
he was particularly well known for his paintings of horses.
He was court
painter and held other high government posts. The
subscription at the left of the painting states Zhao's
motivation for the work:
"I have painted horses
before, but have never painted sheep [or goats]. So when Zhongxin requested a painting, I playfully drew these
for him from life. Though I cannot get close to the
ancient masters, I have managed somewhat to capture
their essential spirit."
The above The Sheep
is a painting rendered in oils, by Salvador
Dali and was a adaptation from a painting by
Shepherd William Holman Hunt. Manchester City Art
The subject of this
Pre-Raphaelite painting by William Holman Hunt was inspired by
Shakespeare's King Lear, in the play Edgar sings a song
about a shepherd neglecting his flock. When the painting
was first displayed in the Royal Academy it was
accompanied by this quotation from King Lear
waketh thou, jolly
Thy sheep be in
And for one blast
of thy minikin
Thy sheep shall
take no harm.
At first glance the
scene appears idyllic, however, it is full of symbolism.
There are several suggestions as to the nature of the
symbolism in this painting, one of which is that Hunt
uses the hireling shepherd to demonstrate the importance
of a good work ethic as opposed to the potential
detrimental effects of idleness; the shepherd's neglect
has resulted in the poor health of the sheep. If
you look carefully in the back ground you will see a
sheep on her back, legs flailing in the air, other sheep
have escaped into the corn filed and will be ill as a
consequence of what farmers call being "blown", the
girl is feeding the lamb green apples which will make
Hunt's paintings had religious symbolism. Hunt was a
Pre-Raphaelite painter, symbolism was important to the
Pre-Raphaelites, and in a letter to Manchester City
Art Gallery he indicated that the couple
symbolised the pointless theological divisions which
occupied the attentions of many clergymen, and while so
distracted their "flocks" went astray;
shepherds and sheep have biblical symbolism as discussed
in religion and mythology. A congregation is compared
to a flock and Jesus to a shepherd
Our English Coasts (strayed sheep) William
Holman Hunt 1827-1910. Tate Gallery London
pastoral scene above intricately painted and rendered in
oils on canvas was painted by William Holman Hunt in
1852. After the success of The Hireling
Shepherd William Holman Hunt was asked by Charles T.
Maud to paint another picture continuing the theme of the wandering sheep, the painting shows the staying
of the neglected flock along the cliffs. For the
back ground of the work Hunt used the cliffs of
Fairlight, east of Hastings.
The above is a Roman mosaic
showing a ram found in Aquileia in
Friuli Venezia Giulia,
Italy. Both this and the mosaic above are fine
examples of the ancient Roman art of mosaic, the art
of creating images with small pieces of coloured
stone or glass which are formed into tiny tiles known as tesserare
which are used to create pictures or
patterns. Mosaics where used to decorate the floors,
walls and even ceilings of Roman villas or other
places of importance.The art of mosaic presents in
other cultures through the ages to the present day.
A modern example of mosaic is the Museum of Natural
History station of the New York Subway.
Shepherd and Sheep sculpture
by Dame Elisabeth Frink, called
Paternoster, it is situated in Paternoster Square,
London, which was in times past a live stock market.
Sheep in Contemporary art
Below is a fine
example of contemporary art work and again the subject is
Agnus Dei from altar-front in the Cathedral of
the Assumption in Louisville, Kentucky
This is an
unusual Agnus Dei from the alter-front in the Cathedral of the
Assumption in Louisville, Kentucky. Agnus Dei is Latin
for the lamb of God and like the polyptech above by Jan
van Eyck it is analogous to Jesus' mission as
that of a sacrificial lamb.
Portrait of a Lamb
Portrait of a Lamb by
Above is a recent
painting by wildlife artist Richard Macwee.
Richard's artwork is a fine example of a detailed
pastel on sanded paper
Sheep are often depicted in the ever popular antique
Staffordshire pottery such
century ornament shown below.
Nineteenth century Staffordshire sheep
depicted on Chinese artifacts
Square zun with four sheep 8*
times sheep were regarded by the Chinese as mild
tempered animals which indeed they are. The sheep
was also considered an auspicious animal. For these
reasons many artifacts include depictions of sheep
in some form or other.
information and view a more detailed version of the
above and other ancient Chinese artifacts decorated
with sheep patterns and other representations of
"How to draw Sheep & Lambs. Sheep & Lamb Drawing
Lessons and step by step drawing tutorials. Learn
how to draw and sketch Sheep and create great
cartoons, illustrations and drawings with these free
Did you know that sheep can learn their own name and be
taught tricks just like dogs? Did you also know that
right now, these gentle animals need your help?
Sadly, in the meat and wool
industries, sheep's interests come a sorry second to
profits. Denied the protection of the cruelty laws that
protect other animals, these intelligent, feeling
animals can haveparts
of their bodiescut
pain relief, and be cruellyconfined.
Please note the information on this webpage is included for interest only,
it is not suitable for serious study as precise accuracy
cannot be guaranteed. Please keep in mind that
information included on this website has been researched
to the best of my ability and any misinformation is
quite by accident but is of course possible.