On the Alert - Lioness and Cubs
By John Macallan Swan


On the Alert - Lioness and Cubs
By J.M. Swan R.A. (1847-1910)
In the Glasgow Art Gallery

As a painter of animals Swan has never been surpassed. He was born to paint them as inevitably as Landseer was, but whereas Landseer was trained by his father from the first to study and sketch animals, Swan was led to do so by his own bent of mind after a thorough grounding in the general principles of painting and sculpture. He was born at Old Brentford, and received his early lessons in drawing, first at the Worcester School of Art, then at the Lambeth School. In 1874 he went to Paris, where he studied painting under Gerome, Bastien Lepage and Dagnan-Bouveret, sculpture under Fremiet, and anatomy under Gervais and Duval. Here he came under the influence of the animal sculpture and drawing of Barye, and received the strong bias in favour of animal studies which were the joy of his creative efforts.

His first picture at the Royal Academy was "Dante and the Leopard." exhibited in 1878, and his finest sculpture is perhaps the "Young Himalayan Tiger." He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1894, and became a full Academician in 1905. Landseer, it may be noted, modelled the lions for the base of the Nelson Monument in Trafalgar Square, and Swan modelled the lions for the Rhodes Memorial in South Africa. The model and an unfinished picture of polar bears on an ice floe were exhibited at the Royal Academy after his death in 1910.

He was gifted with an extraordinary power of revealing the peculiar characteristics of animals in conjunction with their natural surroundings, which he perfected by unceasing study. His talent is well shown in this water-colour study of a lioness and her cubs on the alert in their rocky fastness.

From the book "Famous Paintings" printed in 1913.


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