An international exhibition in Tallinn looks at the relationships between animals and people

The Kadriorg Art Museum in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, has launched the exhibition, “Always by Our Side: Cats and Dogs in 16th–19th-Century Art”, which focuses on the relationships between animals and people over three centuries; the works on display show how artists have reflected on these relationships in their work.

“Cats and dogs have lived near humans for thousands of years and have often served as sources of inspiration for artists,” one of the exhibition’s curators, Tiina-Mall Kreem, said in a statement.

“In today’s world, cats and dogs are mostly seen as pets and furry friends, but in older art they were often used as religious symbols, allegories for virtues and vices, embodiments of power and social status, and a means to construct masculinity and femininity,” Kreem added. “Through works of art depicting cats and dogs, we can actually study people, their attitudes to animals and their behaviour around animals.”

Kreem said that depending on the cultural values and beliefs of a particular era, cats and dogs were either positive or negative characters. “Often, the two species have been portrayed as enemies, sometimes to show the complicated relationships between people. Pets may be used as main characters or as side characters in pictures, but their presence is always significant and worth examination and interpretation.”

The works on display come from the collections of several Estonian art museums as well as the Finnish National Gallery and the Latvian National Museum of Art.

The exhibition will be open until 28 February 2021.

Cover: One of the art works displayed at the exhibition, “A Fight” by Johann Friedrich Seupel, 1786. Courtesy of Sagadi Forest Museum.

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