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Briton Riviere to Charles Darwin (22nd May, 1872)

Briton Riviere to Charles Darwin (22nd May, 1872)

Engravings were more expensive to print than photographs: but animal expressions were more difficult to capture. The most famous of the artists Darwin engaged to illustrate Expression was Briton Riviere, an animal painter who in 1871 was working for the satirical magazine Punch. His drawings of dogs were revised several times at Darwin’s request – there are at least ten letters between Darwin and Riviere over the course of two months concerning the drawings.

Darwin’s book included two dog illustrations by the famous animal painter Briton Riviere. In 1874, two years after Expression of Emotions was published Riviere painted  ‘Sympathy’ - a key work in which he showed the capacity for emotional expression in dogs  The painting was first shown at the Royal Academy in 1878 and was one of his most popular compositions.  It depicts a little girl who has been sent to bed early as a punishment. She is comforted by her dog – an animal that seems to share and understand her distress. View an image of the painting here.

Charles Darwin, The expression of the emotions in man and animals (London, 1872)

Charles Darwin, The expression of the emotions in man and animals (London, 1872)

In March 1871, Darwin also contacted the German-born painter and illustrator, Josef Wolf (1820–99), a specialist on animals who had arrived in London in 1848 and had already illustrated many natural history publications. Darwin had asked the Regent’s Park zoo director to recommend an artist to draw the zoo’s macaque, as he had been informed that the monkey could laugh. Wolf’s illustrations representing a Niger Macaque emphasised the monkey’s kinship to humans.