Dutch photographer Charlotte Dumas’ series of animal portraits is on view at the Corcoran Gallery of Art as part of its Now exhibition series. The Now series showcases the work of living, emerging or mid-career artists, who are invited to create new work for installation in the gallery’s rotunda.
For this installation, Dumas captured portraits of burial horses in Arlington Cemetery, who carry the bodies of fallen soldiers to their final resting place. For most of her work, Dumas usually creates animal portraits, attempting to provide intimate glimpses of the animals’ lives.
The horses at Arlington Cemetery have very noble and important work; they are responsible in giving fallen servicemen and women their final honors in military burials. Dumas photographed the horses in their stables at night, between their waking and sleeping hours.
Courtesy Charlotte Dumas via the Corcoran Gallery of Art
Dumas claims her inspiration from the portrait painting of Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century. This influence is clearly shown in the way she composes her photographs. Shadows and light surround her subjects, giving a soft, illuminated atmosphere to the photographs that create a sense of intimacy. The warm colors in the portraits welcome the viewer into these intimate moments with the horses. Dumas invites us to consider our relationship to animals and their roles in our lives beyond the tasks they perform or the places they inhabit.
Apart from the horse portraits, the exhibition also shows some of Dumas’ previous work, which include portraits of dogs and wolves. The exhibition is her first solo show in a US museum.
Portraiture is an intimate art form that creates a bond between the artist and the subject, allowing the subject’s inner personality and essence to come forth in the representation. While her medium is classical, Dumas’ methods and her choice of subject give her work relevance and brevity. Through her photographs we see the raw, majestic beauty of the animals she photographs. We see them at the same perspective as we see ourselves, as living creatures that inhabit the world and give the earth is soul.
Learn more about the exhibition and hear Dumas speak about her work in this video:
Anima is on View at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC until October 2012.