Hermès, the Parisian luxury house, and Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization based in New York, have joined forces with the Bruce Museum to pay homage to the extraordinary talent of the French artist and naturalist, Robert Dallet (1926 – 2006).
Fierce and Fragile: Big Cats in the Art of Robert Dallet celebrates the beauty of big cats while raising awareness of their precarious existence, forming part of a project to protect their wild populations from further diminishment.
The exhibition will launch on January 10 at the Bruce Museum, and is scheduled for an international tour throughout Europe and Asia in 2016 – 2017. It will feature up to 60 of the artist’s paintings, drawings, and sketches illustrating the eight big cat species: tiger, lion, leopard, cheetah, cougar, jaguar, snow leopard and clouded leopard.
Offering a cross-disciplinary approach that brings together art, design, and science, this exhibition provides a visual framework for a powerful conservation message and touches on Dallet’s two-decade-long design collaboration with Hermès.
The collaboration between Hermès and Panthera was forged after Pierre-Alexis Dumas, artistic director of Hermès, met Panthera’s founder Thomas Kaplan, who is equally as passionate about the conservation of wild cats as the art that depicts them. Dumas explains, “By making Dallet’s hitherto little-known genius available to a worldwide audience on the tenth anniversary of his death with a travelling exhibition, a book, and a generous scarf to support Panthera on the tenth anniversary of its life, we hope to help raise awareness about the precarious existence of wild cats and their environments on a global basis.”
The exhibition is curated by Dominique Surh of the Leiden Collection, Kaplan’s private art collection, with contributions from Ménéhould de Bazelaire who is the director of Hermès Cultural Patrimony. Paintings and drawings of Dallet’s work have been selected both from the Emile Hermès collection and the Robert Dallet family private collection. The exhibition will be accompanied by a book co-published by Hermès and the French publishing house Actes Sud.
About Robert Dallet. Born in 1923, Robert Dallet grew up on a farm in northwestern France and was passionate about drawing from a very early age. He moved to Paris when he was about 30, hoping to pursue a career in drawing at one of the many publishers of illustrated books. While there he became riveted by the Jardin des Plantes and its menagerie, the second oldest zoological garden in the world, studying its captive animals with laser intensity.
Dallet’s lifelong passion for big cats began with a margay, a species slightly larger than a domestic cat. He described how this animal triggered his interest in other wild cats: “Once I returned home, the image continued to haunt me for several days. The only way to stop thinking about it was to draw it, to paint its portrait. And to do this, I had to study the environment it lived in… and there discovered many other felines. So I did the first portrait of the margay, and then I did one of the ocelot, and then all the felines of South America.”
In 1975 he began working with Air Afrique as an illustrator and made his first trips to Africa, where he encountered the iconic big cats he so loved in the wild, learning about their instincts, hunting, and habitat. He began to contextualize the cats within their environments, depicting flora and fauna with the same exacting detail and thoroughness with which he portrayed the animals themselves.
In 1988, after meeting Jean-Louis Dumas, then president of Hermès, his first scarf for Hermès, Kenya, was created.
In 1996, Dumas bought 80 works both to help support Robert Dallet as an artist, and to form the basis for future projects. Robert Dallet created twenty-five scarves for Hermès including the iconic Jungle Love in 2000 and Tendresse féline and Les Tigreaux, both in 2012. His work has also graced a myriad of ot
General admission will be free from January 10 – March 13, 2016, during regular gallery hours. By waiving admissions, the Bruce and Hermès illustrate their commitment to the appreciation of art by a greater audience,and contribute to a broader understanding of conservation issues.