“We need to have tigers, panthers and ocelots in their natural habitat, for their presence contributes to the universal harmony that is vital if man is to achieve his destiny. That is why I paint animals, which are wild in name only.” － Robert Dallet
As a young man, Robert Dallet was deeply interested in nature and drawing. He became a frequent visitor to zoos and museums and was fascinated with any nature-related science. He would spend hours observing the same animal, and do quick sketches in his sketchbook to record their different gesture. His enthusiasm for felines began after he first came in contact with a margay, and he remained deeply passionate from that day forward. Having spent most of his life studying many varieties of big cats, he became intimately familiar with their appearance, habits, and habitats.
Apart from being an artist, he was also a naturalist. With his strong scientific background and excellent painting techniques, he depicted the big cats immersed in their ecological environments making his works the best embodiment of both science and art, much like a painter’s version of the National Geographic Channel. He also sketched numerous extinct wild cats.
Beginning in the mid-1980s, Robert Dallet forged a special relationship with Hermès and began to create scarves for the brand. One of the most famous drawings he did for Hermès is “Jungle Love”, with two leopards snuggling together. This year is the 10th anniversary of Robert Dallet’s death and the founding of Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization based in the US. Fittingly, Hermès has decided to host the “Fierce and Fragile” exhibition to highlight the global issue of how the deteriorating environment is wild animal instincts’ weaken. Other problems include human over-exploitation, animal fur harvesting, and the overtaking of animal habitats, which all contribute to the diminishing population of wild animals.
Following New York, Milan, and Munich, the fourth stop is here in Hong Kong, where a total of 60 original works are on exhibition. Themed around the world’s most iconic big cats such as the clouded leopard, jaguar, puma, tiger, lion, leopard, cheetah and the snow leopard, the oil and watercolour works are borrowed from the collection of Émile Hermès, and the sketches are from the private collection of Robert Dallet’s family. The public can also get to see the sketchbook that Robert Dallet regularly carried. A co-published book by Hermès and French publisher Actes Sud was also launched with the exhibition, making it a valuable collectable.
Unlike the prior host cities where art galleries and museums housed the exhibition, Pacific Place is presenting the Hong Kong exhibition. The presentation features a winding white flower-filled tunnel specially created so the light and shadows appear as a forest, giving the area a feeling of being outdoors. Hermès and Panthera wish to use these beautiful and hyperrealistic paintings to raise people’s awareness for the conservation of big wild cats so that together we can protect their living environment and realise the dream of Robert Dallet.
Fierce and Fragile – Big Cats in the Art of Robert Dallet
Level L1, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Hong Kong
7 to 24 September 2016
Monday to Sunday 11am until 8pm