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2019: Year of the Pig and Pigs in Painting

Niko Pirosmani, White Sow with Piglets, Art Museum of Georgia, Tbilisi, Georgia

Special Occasion And News

2019: Year of the Pig and Pigs in Painting

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2019 is the year closing the twelve-year lunar calendar cycle. It’s named after the Pig because according to the mythology, it was the last guest to arrive when the Jade Emperor (i.e. first god) or Buddha (depends on the source) called for the great meeting. To pay tribute to this special animal, today I’m dedicating this post to pigs in painting across centuries. Surprisingly, there are quite many of them!

International Gothic

Limbourg brothers, November: Feeding Acorns to the Pigs, series: Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, 1413, Musée Condé, Chantilly, France, pigs in painting

Limbourg brothers, November: Feeding Acorns to the Pigs, series: Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, 1413, Musée Condé, Chantilly

According to the legend, the Pig was late because it overslept, while another version says that a wolf destroyed its house and the Pig decided to rebuild its house before setting off for the party.

Northern Renaissance

Hans Hoffmann, A Wild Boar Piglet, 1578, private collection, pigs in painting

Hans Hoffmann, A Wild Boar Piglet, 1578, private collection


Although considered a lucky animal which brings fortune and wealth, a pig can also symbolize laziness and clumsiness. This negative trait refers again to the aforementioned legend, according to which pig got hungry so it stopped its journey to the meeting in order to eat and then fell asleep.

Rococo

Thomas Gainsborough, Girl with Pigs, 1782, private collection, pigs in painting

Thomas Gainsborough, Girl with Pigs, 1782, private collection

Pigs are also said to be a symbol of virility, hence one can find small pig figurines displayed in the bedrooms of couples trying for children.

George Morland, Sow and Piglets in a Sty, unknown date, Watford Museum, Watford, England, pigs in painting

George Morland, Sow and Piglets in a Sty, unknown date, Watford Museum, Watford, England


The ancient Chinese character “敢” meaning bravery depicts a man catching a pig with his bare hands. It is because in ancient times hunting wild boars was well practised and those who could catch a pig, were considered to be bold and brave men.

Post-Impressionism

Paul Gauguin, Landscape with black pigs and a crouching Tahitian, 1891, private collection, pigs in painting

Paul Gauguin, Landscape with black pigs and a crouching Tahitian, 1891, private collection

In Chinese history, the Pig was also used to refer to the people sold abroad as slaves and laborers during the late Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) and early Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911), for whom it was extremely unlikely to ever return to China.

German Expressionism

Franz Marc, Pigs, c.1912, private collection, pigs in painting

Franz Marc, Pigs, c.1912, private collection

Franz Marc, Wild Pigs (Boar and sow), 1913, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany, pigs in painting

Franz Marc, Wild Pigs (Boar and sow), 1913, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany


Painters born in the year of the Pig were Edvard Munch, Jackson Pollock, or Diego Velázquez.

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Magda, art historian and Italianist, she writes about art because she cannot make it herself. She loves committed and political artists like Ai Weiwei or the Futurists; like Joseph Beuys she believes that art can change us and we can change the world.

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