Ten famous paintings of sheep

(Chinaculture.org) | Feb 03, 2015

Have you ever read the novel The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry? If you did, you won’t forget the classic line uttered by the little prince to the pilot, "If you please–draw me a sheep!" At the end of the story, the pilot drew the sheep the prince had imagined, but it was nothing but an empty box.

Has this story inspired your imagination about sheep? As the Year of the Sheep, also called the Year of the Goat, is around the corner, why not appreciate 10 amazing paintings of sheep and goats at home and abroad?


The Goat by Mikalojus Ciurlionis, 1904 [Photo/Xinhua]

As a unique composer and artist in the history of European arts, Mikalojus Ciurlionis left a profound imprint on Lithuanian culture. Over a short, decade-long career, he created this renowned painting, The Goat, From his painting, we can see a goat fleeing from a golden castle to the unknown forest. With no companions, it seems to be a little lonely.


Portrait of Lady by Jamie Wyeth, 1968 [Photo/Xinhua]

James Browning Wyeth, son of artist Andrew Wyeth, is a contemporary American realist painter. Influenced deeply by his father, Wyeth's favorite subjects are people, animals and landscapes around him. You can often see a beautiful stretch of coastline, seagulls, and a hay stack in the sunshine in his paintings. He often notes: "I paint my life." In the Portrait of Lady, he tried to portray a ewe like a privileged lady. No matter where she went or wanted to go, she always belongs to her homeland.


Fushi Kaden: Ginzan Hot Springs by Issei Suda, 1976 [Photo/Xinhua]

Born in Tokyo in 1940, Japanese photographer Issei Suda shot a series of close-ups on the theme of Fushi Kaden in 1976 to reflect the funeral culture in Japan. From his perspective, instead of serving as a spokesman for the gods, the goat itself is the embodiment of mystery and sagacity.


Two Sheep by Zhao Mengfu, painted during the Yuan Dynasty (1271 AD—1368 AD) [Photo/Xinhua]

As a prominent scholar, painter and calligrapher during the Yuan Dynasty, Zhao Mengfu’s gentle brushwork is considered to have brought about a revolution that created modern Chinese landscape painting. He was noted for painting horses, but few people know that his masterpiece, Two Sheep, is also the gem of ancient Chinese art. Pleasant and contented, the two sheep live in an easy fashion: one is nibbling grass while the other is looking forward. In association with his life story, it is easy to conclude Zhao Mengfu would give up official rank and political power for such a carefree life.


Adoration of the Shepherds by Jusepe de Ribera. [Photo/Xinhua]

Jusepe de Ribera was a leading Spanish painter, although his mature work was done in Italy. His painting Adoration of the Shepherds portray a scene from the Nativity in which shepherds and their sheep pay homage to the newborn Jesus. In Western culture, the shepherd appears as a virtuous soul because he lives close to nature, uncorrupted by the temptations of the city.


Shepherdess and her Flock by Jean-Francois Millet, 1864. [Photo/Xinhua]

Jean-Francois Millet was a French painter noted for his scenes of peasant farmers. This painting was put on display at the Paris Salon in 1864 and was highly commended. The praying girl with a flock of sheep in this painting created an atmosphere of tranquility and sadness. Millet once lived in the countryside and he wanted to express his nostalgia for his childhood. Théophile Gautier, well known critic and artist, once said that this was the most perfect painting he had ever seen.


The Shepherd Su Wu by Chen Zihe, from the Ming Dynasty (1368 AD-1644 AD) [Photo/Xinhua]

When it comes to the shepherd in Chinese culture, Su Wu was typical to most Chinese. He was a Chinese diplomat and statesman of the Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AD). Su Wu was known for his mission into a foreign territory where he was detained for 19 years. However, he endured all the hardships while remaining faithful to his mission and his homeland. Su was often regarded as the epitome of faithful service in light of great odds and trials. His story often became the subject of drama, poetry, and songs in Chinese history. Paintings were no exception.


Spring by Pablo Picasso, 1965 [Photo/Xinhua]

As one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century, he is known for the Cubist movement. Among his most famous works are the proto-Cubist Les demoiselles d 'Avignon (The Maidens of Avignon) (1907) and Guernica (1937). In Mediterranean culture, the first-born lamb was the epitome of victory and spring. This painting was created at the age of 75 by this great artist. The painter voiced the hope for happiness by portraying a lamb touching the leaves while a boy lies under a tree.


Three Yangs Meet Bliss by the Xuande Emperor. [File photo]

In Chinese culture, Three Yangs Meet Bliss is a blessing to people at the Lunar New Year and people often pray for good fortune for a new year. This painting was assumed to have been created by the Xuande Emperor, the fifth emperor of China's Ming Dynasty from 1425 to 1435. He was 31 when he made it. Decorated with bamboos and camellias, one ewe is breastfeeding two lambs. In Chinese culture, the sheep embodies kindness and filiality.


Three Yangs Meet Bliss by Wang Xiangyang. [File photo]

The sheep is also a docile animal in Chinese culture and we may often refer to a person as being "as meek as a lamb". From this painting, we can see three sheep are chewing grass at their ease with a rising sun behind them. Anyone who is familiar with Chinese culture knows that "Yang" also represents the sun in Chinese culture. As is known to all, when the sun shines on the land, everything will be back to its energetic state, which is a good sign for a new start.


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