Beautiful Beasts !

Animal art, past and present

There is a clear resonance between animal representations from the paleolithic and present day animal photography
Both reveal a sensitivity and closeness to their subject, the result of long periods of observation, patience and careful approach …
The « Beautiful Beasts » temporary exhibition attempts to convey this proximity via an immersive collection of animal photos and prehistoric depictions.
The exhibition at the “Cité de la Préhistoire” is open from 3 July 2023 to 15 November 2024.

Baleines - Photographie Guillaume Mazille

Approaching the animal

Depicting an animal requires a long and patient approach that engenders a proximity that could almost be qualified as a connivance with the subject. Quite contrary to the 19th century naturalist tradition of still life painting or animal species collections pinned under glass, the aim of a contemporary wildlife photographer is to seize the animal in all its vitality and personality.
Paleolithic animal depictions seem to be part of the same process and perception. They are surprisingly realistic and allow us to share, albeit fleetingly, the perspective of these men and women who were able to establish these moments of proximity with other species.
Beautiful beasts! proposes a glimpse into this universe via an exhibition that is both educational and immersive.

Pingouins-Cosquer 2 ©Kléber Rossillon et Région PACA -Sources 3D MC

Confronting the depictions of the past and present.

The wildlife photographer attempts to capture the animal’s expression, its presence, its behavior, its movement, or the imperceptible moment that precedes the movement.It would seem to be that Paleolithic artists were similarly motivated. They were able to capture anatomical details and attitudes that allow us to identify the age, gender and specific mood of the depicted animals. The depictions are alive. We can clearly see their expressions, characteristic attitudes and sometimes we can also perceive a sense of movement.
Prehistoric vestiges and remains bear witness to changes over time. The animal bones found on archeological and paleontological sites illustrate the slow evolution of the biological world and its diversity. These remains reveal crucial information about the evolution and behavior of certain species.
The wildlife photographer, on the other hand, captures and records the last moments of certain species that have not had time to adapt to their rapidly changing environments.

Bison-photographie Guillaume Mazille

The Exhibition

The exhibition proposes a juxtaposition: the viewpoint of contemporary animal photographers compared to the prehistoric depictions visible not only on cave walls but also engraved on portable objects. The viewpoint of paleontologists, who study animal bones, is taken into consideration alongside the notion of the symbolic use of animal bone as a support for these engraved objects.
Large explanatory panels lead us through different sequences: the wildlife photographer, his confrontation with the animals, the process of gaining their confidence, their cohabitation with humans, the creation of a veritable testimony to these threatened species, the evolution of their different ecosystems.
Diverse videos highlight the points of view of both prehistorians and wildlife photographers.
The immersion is completed by immense printed landscapes, that recreate the wild landscapes explored by the photographer Guillaume Mazille.

This exhibition was made possible by funding from the Ministry of Culture and the Ardeche Département. Its realization is the result of a partnership with MuséAl

Guillaume Mazille, photographe animalier
Guillaume Mazille, photographe animalier

Who is Guillaume Mazille ?

Guillaume Mazille has been travelling the world for over 20 years, observing nature and revealing rarely observed species to the public eye. He works for French magazines such as VSD, Paris Match, image doc, GEO ado, Terre Sauvage and also for the BBC Wildlife magazine...
He regularly works as a documentary author, scientific advisor and imaging operator for television (Arte, BBC, France 5, TF1, NHK...) and cinema (Un jour sur Terre, Océans...).
He wrote, filmed and co-produced Wolves Unleashed, a film that won 21 awards at major American and Canadian film festivals. In 2016, the Arte channel broadcast a 15 episode series about his career as a globetrotting wildlife photographer.

Photographer' web site
Coming face to face with an animal is a surprising revelation of our own bestiality.
Guillaume Mazille, wildlife photographer

- Commissariat d’exposition
Guillaume Mazille, photographe animalier.
Nicolas Lateur, paléontologue, archéologue au service départemental d’Archéologie, CD07.
Patricia Guillermin,conservatrice, Cité de la Préhistoire et l'équipe de la Cité de la Préhistoire.
Crédits photos animalières : Guillaume Mazille.
- Comité scientifique
Jean-Baptiste Fourvel, Julien Monney, Gilles Tosello.
- Graphisme
François Lacrampe-Cuyaubère, Archeosphère.
ABP Imprimerie numérique.
- Photographies
Guillaume Mazille, Carole Fritz/équipe Chauvet/Culture/CNRS (photographies Grotte Chauvet), Gilles Tosello (photographie grotte de Limeuil) et Aitor Ruiz-Redondo (photographie grotte d’Altxerri).
- Relecture des textes, conception des dispositifs pédagogiques

Philippe Barth, Hubert Gomez, Maëlis Raynaud.
- Translations

Magen O’Farrell.