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Label, Spanierman Gallery, New York, New York

In discussing this painting the artist wrote, “Two elk feeding at the water’s edge at sunset evoke a sense of almost spiritual calm. But then a faint scent or a distant sound disturbs them. They raise their heads, suddenly alert. Somewhere not far away a pack of wolves is on the trail, hunting for food. Depending on habitat, wolves prey on different grazing or browsing animals: elk, caribou, moose or deer. If there are too few wolves to keep the population in check, these herbivores can seriously damage the plant base on which they depend. And since wolves generally kill the weakest or most vulnerable members of their target group – the old and the young – they help ensure that the prey species is always at its reproductive best.

“But this ecological balancing act doesn’t explain why we seem to be as attracted to predators as to their victims. Wildlife artists know that images of some of the fiercest animals are among the most sought after by collectors. The wolf, with which human beings have had a long love-hate relationship, is possibly the single most popular subject of wildlife art in North America. I don’t think this is because we live in an age addicted to violence: it probably has more to do with the fact that human beings once depended on hunting for survival. In some distant part of our genetic memory we can recall a time when the large predators were our rivals, and some, perhaps even preyed on us. Could it be that we can identify with both predator and prey?”

Rick Archbold, Robert Bateman: Natural Worlds, Madison Press Books, 1996, pp. 41-42, illustrated

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