At first glance, Walton Ford
’s large-scale, highly-detailed watercolors of animals may recall the prints of 19th century illustrators John James Audubon
and Edward Lear
, and others of the colonial era. But a closer look reveals a complex and disturbingly anthropomorphic
universe, full of symbols, sly jokes, and allusions to the ’operatic’ nature of traditional natural history themes. The beasts and birds populating this contemporary artist’s life-size paintings are never mere objects, but dynamic actors in allegorical struggles
: a wild turkey crushes a small parrot in its claw; a troupe of monkeys wreak havoc on a formal dinner table, an American buffalo is surrounded by bloodied white wolves. The book’s title derives from The Pancha Tantra
, an ancient Indian book of animal tales considered the precursor to Aesop’s Fables
This large-format edition includes an in-depth exploration of Walton Ford’s oeuvre, a complete biography, and excerpts from his textual inspirations: Vietnamese folktales and the letters of Benjamin Franklin, the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini and Audubon’s Ornithological Biography.