The earliest-known animal drawings and paintings, found in Paleolithic caves, date as far back 30,000 years. It’s no surprise, as animals not only awe us with their beauty, but they fascinate and endear us with their actions. If you’re an animal lover, or are looking for a one-of-a-kind gift for someone who is, we invite you to explore the original animal drawings for sale on Saatchi Art by talented emerging artists from around the world. From the fierce and majestic to the cuddly and cute, our selection of animal drawings contains the perfect works for your style and space.
Some of the earliest drawings known to mankind depicts animals. The history of animals in art transcends time and cultures, where animals represent everything from gods to signs of status. Animal drawings were the most common theme depicted on cave walls in prehistoric times, and some scholars believe the artists painted hunting scenes in the hopes that they would then have successful hunts. In a religious context, drawings of animals often corresponded to various biblical characters, with a dove symbolizing the holy spirit and a lamb or fish symbolizing Christ. Throughout medieval art and illuminated manuscripts, drawings of animals are plentiful, as they serve as religious allegory and moral instruction. In Japan, the Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga scrolls of the 12th-13th centuries depict animals frolicking and are considered by many to be the first manga. Throughout the Renaissance, a strong desire to capture thoroughly lifelike images from nature led to a plethora of anatomically realistic animal drawings. In 19th century Southeast Asia, drawings of birds became an increasingly popular item to produce, as the flora and fauna of Asia were being identified and classified. Animal drawings continue to be a popular subject for artists, as they depict everything from domesticated pets to fanciful imaginary creatures.
Some of the most popular methods of nature drawings are pencil, charcoal, pen, and ink on paper. Ink wash painting, where the artist uses black ink in various concentrations, dates back to the fifth century throughout China, Japan and Korea. The technique involved tonality and shading by layering the ink and applying it in varying densities onto highly absorbent xuan paper. Western artists generally employed pens, pencils and ink on paper to depict their nature drawings. Natural history drawings are mainly for scientific study and emphasize realistic depictions of animals and plants for classification. Some artists would acquire taxidermied animals and draw them from a variety of angles in order to understand their musculature and sense of movement. The most popular depictions of animal drawings come as studies for paintings that artists would later execute and were often done in ink on paper.
Leonardo da Vinci produced several famous animal ink pen drawings including “Studies of Cats and Other Animals” (1513) and “Study of Horse and Rider” (1480), through which he realistically captured the animals’ physical movements. Albrecht Dürer also created several famous animal drawings, including “Two Seated Lions” (1521) and “The Stork” (1515), where his attention to detail continues to inspire artists today. On the other side of the world, Japan’s Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga scrolls depict animals that would later influence creators of manga and artists with a love of creating cute animal drawings, or kawaii drawings. George Stubbs’ depiction of horses are considered to be among the best in the world. His drawing “The Skeleton of a Horse” (1766) reveals his fascination with horses and their anatomy and is still in print today. John James Audubon is one of the most famous naturalists and is known for his detailed illustrations of birds in their natural habitats. Pablo Picasso’s “Bull” (1945) series of drawings is considered a prime example of representing a subject from figurative to abstract and is among the most recognizable symbols he ever produced. Other famous artists who’ve drawn animals include Rembrandt van Rijn and Peter Paul Rubens, who often visited the zoo to draw elephants and lions. Famous modern artists like Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso, David Hockney and Kiki Smith have produced drawings of their own pet cats and dogs, as these animal companions often served as muses for them.