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Fierce and Fragile

Big Cats in the Art of Robert Dallet

層疊的通花布幕,繞成一條蜿蜒的白色隧道,在燈照下令人產生一種駐足森林原野的錯覺。眼前的虎、豹、獅一時張牙舞爪一時俯伏地上,那模樣竟像隻溫馴的家貓。我其實在說Robert Dallet的畫作,他的油畫與水彩畫活現了各種野生貓科動物及其棲息環境,栩栩如生的程度是看得到牠們的皮膚質感與毛髮生長方向,連周圍的樹木林葉肌理皆細緻入微,每一幅都令人禁不住凝視良久。

Cascading behind the lace curtains is a winding white tunnel where special lighting makes it appear like a forest. The tigers, leopards and lions depicted are either viciously displaying their claws or lying on the floor, appearing as tame as house cats. What I am describing here are paintings by Robert Dallet, oil and watercolor works that illustrate different wildcats in their respective habitats. They are so detailed that viewers can see their skin textures and the direction of their fur growth. Even the texture of leaves in the background is included, tempting one to stare at his pieces for a long time.

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Robert Dallet出生於1923年,在法國西北部的一個農場長大,小時候已對繪畫充滿興趣,在年輕時期非常愛到動物園與博物館,可以在一隻動物面前定睛觀看動輒幾小時,且邊在隨身的筆記本畫下其萬變姿態。至於對貓科動物的熱情,則是源於首次見到虎貓,後來更為此傾注大半生心力。「當我回家後,腦子裡時常浮現出牠的影像,縈繞心頭多日仍揮之不去。要放下心頭大石,唯一的方式就是付諸紙筆,描繪出牠的形象。但是要做到這點,就得深入研究牠的居住環境。就這樣,我又發現了許多其他貓科動物。因此,我完成了第一幅虎貓作品,然後又完成了另一幅豹貓作品,繼而是南美所有的貓科動物。」他這樣說過。

Robert Dallet was born in 1923 and grew up on a farm in the northwestern region of France. He was passionate about drawing ever since he was young, and he loved visiting zoos and museums. He could stand in front of an animal and stare at it for hours as he recorded their gestures in his sketchbook. His love for big cats started when he first saw a margay, and he became devoted to these animals for a large part of his life. “Once I returned home, the image continued to haunt me for several days,” he explained. “The only way to stop thinking about it was to draw it, to paint its portrait. And to do this, I had to study the environment it lived in… and there I discovered many other felines. So I did the first portrait of the margay, and then I did one of the ocelot, and then all the felines of South America.”

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全球第一種貓科動物出現在漸新世,早在人類還未出現的時候就已經在地球上生活,牠們的棲息範圍超過地球陸地面積的三分之一,說是大地的監察者也不為過,其存在足以成為地球健康與否的基準,是構成完整生態系統的關鍵,牽連到所有生命,當然包括人類。世界上每種生物也無法單獨生存,彼此間、與環境間互相影響、依賴才得以生生不息。然而因為各種人為因素,現時全球的野生貓科動物正逐步減少,當中包括愈演愈烈的非法野生動物交易、土地開發與農務發展、人類捕殺野生貓科動物的獵物以致牠們以家畜作為食物,於是被報復式獵殺造成了惡性循環,這是Robert Dallet最不願看見的情況,於是讓更多人知道,從而令更多人加入保護,成了他畢生夢想。

The first feline that appeared in the world was in the Oligocene epoch. It lived on earth long before humans appeared and its habitat covered a third of the planet’s surface. Reasonably referred to as the guardians of land, these felines did not only act as indicators of the health of the earth; they were also a key component to the completion of the ecosystem. They were linked to the lives of all other animals — including humans, of course. No species on earth can survive independently and the unique characteristics of the earth’s species and the environment make us all interdependent.

Due to various the impact of humans, however, the population of big cats in the world has been gradually decreasing. Illegal wildlife trade, land and agricultural development, and the hunting of their natural prey have forced big cats to hunt livestock. Ironically, they are then often killed by humans in retaliation for preying on livestock. This has grown into a vicious hunting cycle, which is exactly what Robert Dallet did not want to see. This is the reason his lifelong dream has been to get more people to know about big cats, and to encourage them to join him in the protection of these animals.

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Robert Dallet的藝術沒有使用艱澀的語言,甚至直白非常,大概因為同時兼具自然學家的身份,早就練成紮實的科學根基,卻能以作畫形式表達他的信念,讓更多人看見殘酷事實,更能理解到野生貓科動物的可貴。自1980年代中期,Robert Dallet與Hermès開展了長期合作關係,遂此創作過多款絲巾圖案,當中的經典作有2000年的「叢林之愛」 (Jungle Love)、2012年的「貓般柔情」(Tendresse féline) 及Les Tigreaux,全以貓科動物為主題,除了勇捍一面,更多是像大部份其他生物一樣,會有感情,會相依偎。從此他的受眾便由藝術層面托展至時尚界。

The art of Robert Dallet does not speak an incomprehensible language. Rather, it is very straightforward. This is probably because he is a naturalist who has built for himself a strong scientific foundation, but finds it more natural to express himself through painting. He uses this medium to reveal the real, brutal facts of what is happening, so that more people can realize the value of wildcats. Since the mid-1980s, Robert Dallet and Hermès have maintained a long-term relationship by creating different scarf designs. This includes their classic “Jungle Love” from 2000, and “Tendresse Féline” and “Les Tigreaux” from 2012, all of which are based on felines. Besides displaying their fearless nature, Dallet also depicts their emotional and “snuggly” side, making them more relatable. Since then, his supporters have expanded their interests from art to the fashion domain.

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而有著相同理念的美國全球野生大型貓科動物保護協會Panthera,則以科學方法保護野生貓科動物。他們聚集全球首屈一指的生物學家,進行各種研究與分析,探究38種野生貓科動物與其生態系統、其獵物與面臨的生命威脅,再使用數據來塑造和實施合適的保護行動,希望能讓牠們從瀕危物種的絕境中拯救出來。Hermès的全球藝術總監Pierre-Alexis Dumas與Panthera創始人Thomas S. Kaplan更共同創立了以Robert Dallet命名的野生貓科動物保育計劃。這所有事的發展就像在驗證吸引力法則,讓不同個體連成一個圈子,繼續壯大這個「保衛聯盟」。

Using the same concept, America’s global wildcat conservation organization, Panthera, has been coming up with scientific methods to protect wildcats. They have gathered the world’s leading biologists to conduct various kinds of research and analysis, and have investigated the ecosystems and prey of 38 kinds of wildcats, as well as the threats to them. They then used this data to shape and implement the appropriate wildcat conservation initiatives, hoping to save these endangered species from further population reduction. Recently, Pierre-Alexis Dumas, global artistic director of Hermès and Thomas S. Kaplan, founder of Panthera, partnered to create the Robert Dallet Wild Cat Conservation project. It’s evident that, thanks to various interconnected interests, different individuals have gathered and formed a kind of natural defense alliance.

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今年為Robert Dallet逝世十週年,亦是Panthera成立十週年,Hermès為此舉辦展覽《野性與脆弱》,以全球最具代表性的大型貓科動物為主題,囊括雲豹、美洲豹、美洲獅、老虎、獅子、花豹、獵豹及雪豹八大品種。合共展出60幅真跡畫作,全屬首次來港,除了剛提及的油畫與水彩畫作,亦有大量素描草圖,分別來自Émile Hermès的珍藏博物館與Robert Dallet家族的私人珍藏,非常罕見。這是繼紐約、米蘭及慕尼黑之後的巡展第四站。

This year marks the 10th year anniversary of Robert Dallet’s death, and it is also the 10th anniversary of the establishment of Panthera. For this occasion, Hermès decided to host the “Fierce and Fragile” exhibition, which used focused on the world’s most iconic big cats. Included among them were the clouded leopard, jaguar, puma, tiger, lion, leopard, cheetah and the snow leopard. Totaling 60 originals, all of these works are now being exhibited in Hong Kong for the first time, and apart from the oil and watercolor works mentioned, there is also a large number of sketches from the Émile Hermès museum and the private collection of Robert Dallet’s family. These rare pieces have traveled across New York, Milan and Munich, with Hong Kong as the fourth stop of this exhibition.

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或者我們做自己能力所及的事,也能集合大成幫助這世界一點點。像Robert Dallet本來也是孤身一人,只因在年輕時撒下了種子,如此帶著熱情有了堅持一輩子的事,對於任誰有這種力量,都讓人難以忽視。這次展覽是Robert Dallet對畢生所愛的大貓的一次延伸,每幅畫作都是用時間與情感累積而成的真實記錄。


Visitors will see, upon first glance, that the exhibition space is filled with Prussian blue. One notable part of the exhibition is a special installation that forces the viewer to see the painting through a hole, creating the feeling of peeping at something. Whether or not this is coincidental or a deliberate act by the host, I think this detail fits perfectly well with the message of the exhibition. Most of us think that the issue of animal conservation isn’t something we can impact, since we are physically removed from these natural habitats. Yet, by peeking through the hole and learning about the problems happening on our planet, one will understand that the horrors happening in this world are largely caused by humans and closer to us than we might think. After seeing this exhibition, I realized that the existence of these animals has become increasingly fragile due to the global environmental changes we all face, and this has made these animals become as weak as we are.

Perhaps by doing we that we are capable of doing, we can unite the world just a little bit more. Robert Dallet started off alone too, but the seeds that he sowed have grown into something that can last for a lifetime. This enthusiasm holds a power which is hard to ignore. This exhibition, in particular, is an extension of Robert Dallet’s lifelong love for big cats, and each of his paintings are real records of the time and emotion that he devoted to this subject over his career.

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

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很多時看畢展覽,會想擁有剛才看到的作品,而更多時候因為價錢又或是非賣品而無法達成,又有時覺得放在家裡好像委屈了作品等各種原因。於是展覽紀念品像明信片或小書甚至場刊,我也有種「收藏強迫症」的。今次我們挑選了一些與Robert Dallet畫作有關的Hermès產品,一解怦然心動。

After I visit an exhibition, I invariably want to own the great works on display. Most of the time, they are not for sale or are too expensive. Other times, I feel it would be a waste to keep them at home. This is why I have an obsession with collecting exhibition souvenirs instead, including postcards or booklets. This time, we have selected several products by Hermès that are related to Robert Dallet’s work and should sooth such an obsession.

Carnets d’Equateur Tableware

在Robert Dallet眼中,於翠意滿盈的自然景觀中穿梭嬉戲的美洲豹、金剛鸚鵡、黑斑羚令人暢快無比。看見動物能自在地生活,本身就是一幀歡樂景象。這個Carnets d’Equateur陶瓷餐具系列將這些快樂收歸到你的餐桌上,當中有畫家寫實的廣告彩作品,亦有筆觸率性的草圖,在素雅的白瓷與青瓷器上靈巧展現,最後以一道啞光24K金邊點綴,低調而不失華美。

For Robert Dallet, the sight of jaguars, macaws and impalas walking through the emerald landscape was very soothing. Seeing these animals live freely is a happy scene on its own. This set of Carnets d’Equateur ceramic tableware transports this happiness to your tabletop. The series includes the painter’s realistic gouache paintings, as well as his pencil sketches. Elegantly printed on white porcelain and celadon, each of them is embellished with a matte 24k gold rim, making it a low-key, yet gorgeous series.

Dans l’atelier de Robert Dallet Silk Twill Scarf

說起Hermès很難想不起他們家的絲巾。這來自AW16 Silk Collection,張開是一大幅無上色的大貓圖畫,蒐集了30幅黑色墨水畫,於淡淡天藍色背景襯托下,畫面簡單卻不單調,正如Robert Dallet一直以幾樣最簡單的「工具」開始創作 —— 眼睛、雙手和鉛筆,然後「Draws a sensitive portrait of lives in the wild that man can only marvel at」。原作同樣是Robert Dallet家族的珍藏。

It is hard not to mention scarves when we talk about Hermès. This one is from the Autumn/Winter 2016 Silk Collection featuring 30 ink drawings of big cats in black and white. When matched with the pale blue sky, the drawings do not appear boring at all. Robert Dallet always used the most simple tools to create  including his eyes, hands and pencils  and drew sensitive portraits of “lives in the wild that man can only marvel at.” The original works belong to Robert Dallet’s family’s private collection.

Fierce and Fragile Illustration Book by Robert Dallet

Hermès與法國出版商Actes Sud聯合發行的印刷品素來高質,這次再度攜手,推出與展覽同名的Robert Dallet畫集。全書120頁,除了輯錄最具代表性的八種大型貓科動物畫作,同時收錄與Hermès合作的多款著名絲巾圖案與其原作及草圖,屬於非常珍貴的畫家個人記錄,能將它抱回家,便永遠是書架上一本不可多得的珍寶。

Hermès and French publisher, Actes Sud, have a history of creating high-quality prints together, and they have worked together again this time to release an art book for the exhibition. Titled Fierce and Fragile, this 120-page book does not only record the drawings of the eight most iconic big cats, but also includes the different scarf patterns and the original sketches that Dallet created for Hermès. This is a very rare record of the painter, so it is definitely a collectible treasure for your bookshelf.