The Art of Taxidermy by Jane Eastoe
Taxidermy, it is one of those things that many people feel they should find disgusting and so proclaim to do just that. Having dabbled in some taxidermy myself I can assure you, it is no more disgusting than cutting up a chicken for dinner. On a moral level it is misunderstood. Far from the blood sport it is often perceived to be taxidermy is a delicate and intricate profession of sculptural anatomy and is thus an art form.
With the recent boom over the past couple of years of all things stuffed, one would have assumed there to be a wealth of books on the subject, this is not the case. Jane Eastoe’s The Art of Taxidermy is quite the rarity. A progressional journey through the history of taxidermy leading to its current manifestations, the book leaves no stone unturned. Easy to read informative and supplemented with stunning examples The Art of Taxidermy is a fantastic book for everyone from the generally interested to the avid enthusiast.
One of the pioneers of taxidermy as art is Polly Morgan. Her work is renowned for shifting the craft from trade to art in the public view and she has created fantastic and stunning pieces of work utilising the medium. Her foreword for the book discusses questions of disdain for the medium, and what it means to her as an art form as well as addressing the focus of the taxidermy community practicing in the UK. Fabulously written it is the perfect introduction to the craft and its purposes. Morgan’s work is featured throughout the book and shows the success of the medium in the modern day art world.
Eastoe goes on to explain what first drew her towards taxidermy, her experiences and her hopes. The book is written with a lot of truth, it feels very genuine and not at all pretentious as it so easily could have been. Eastoe has crafted an honest and comprehensive overview of the poignant moments in taxidermy history coupled with the modern day shift and its materialisation.
The book talks of the early failings of the practice before appropriate methods were developed. The large scale expeditions to acquire exotic new creatures. The purpose of the origins of taxidermy and how it was primarily a source for viewing the world which could not be seen by today’s photographs and trips to the zoo. Collectors, artists, hunters and tradespeople are all addressed within and the book as a whole gives a wonderful overview of how we have come to be settled into our modern day taxidermy mindset. With stunning examples and photography throughout the book is a work of art itself. It is a history a dialogue and a record of the achievements of a profession often overlooked and misjudged. A profession that has actually, on closer inspection, given us a wealth of knowledge sparked the origins of the museum industry and thus the art world in general and more recently has given us some beautiful and conceptual art pieces. Featuring works by Polly Morgan, Maurizio Cattelan, Alexander McQueen, Angela Singer and a whole host of others the quality of work speaks for itself and leaves little room for doubt that taxidermy is an art form, and a great one at that.
As a side note, do not judge this book by its cover. Distastefully made to look like a Halloween publication, its exterior flaws do not match-up to the wealth of information and quality of examples within.
For further information on Jane Eastoe visit her website here.
Published by Pavilion Books, The Art of Taxidermy is available to buy now from Amazon and can be found here.