2/15/13: The Spectacle of Nature
Large Zoological Garden, August Macke
This painting seems to mark the beginning of an era, as well as the end of another. The piece displays what would be assumed to be one of the zoos to be available to the public, marking the beginning of the practice. In the work, people are viewing the caged animals in somber silence, which is one of the key things to note about the piece. My displaying humans and animals in such a manner, Macke is saying that human experience as a whole has been reduced to machine-like viewing, and that we have become contained in nature. Notice how most of the faces aren’t even painted onto the people, reinforcing that sense of almost not having a unique identity. On the other hand, the animals, though they are caged, are still free to do as they please, and in that way, are more free and civilized than we are. The work as a whole shows a certain element of worship of nature in its theme, and a possible derailment of the then new commodity of zoos. By showing humans in such a subdued state and animals in such an exalted one, the artist may be even be suggesting that we are the ones being viewed.
A little bit about America’s first zoo:
“Are zoos good or bad for Animals?”