The Cry of Nature reveals how humans engaged in the struggle for animal emancipation and examines for the ﬁrst time the role of visual art in the growth of animal rights. Artists from Hogarth to Soutine, and Géricault to Picasso, represented animals’ suffering and death, as well as their pleasure and individuality. Embracing the lessons of Montaigne, Rousseau, Blake, Darwin, Freud and many others, they proposed that humans and animals have a shared evolutionary heritage of sentience, intelligence and empathy, and deserve equal access to the domain of moral rights.
From the mid-18th century, a new and more sympathetic understanding of animals began to challenge prevailing views. Witnessing the pain and hearing the outcry of the animals massed together in the great cities of Europe, sympathetic writers and artists argued that animals were neither slaves nor automata, and possessed the capacity to feel and even think. Refuting the biblical dispensation of humans’ dominion over animals, they contended that animals possessed inalienable rights. Thus was born a global movement that fundamentally changed how we understand our relationship to the natural world. Animal rights has become one of the preeminent liberation movements of our time.
Illuminating and provocative, The Cry of Nature documents and explores the making of animal rights over the course of 300 years. Engaging the ﬁelds of biology, ethnology, anthropology, economics, philosophy and art history, it is both a survey and a closely argued examination of a deeply important but misunderstood epoch in the long history of human and animal relationships.
Stephen F. Eisenman lecturing at the Chicago Humanities Festival 2013.
‘Surveying the role of art within the historical development of ideas recognizing the rights of animals, Eisenman addresses important social and philosophical changes – particularly from the 18th and 19th centuries – that led to a growing respect for animals as sentient beings . . . Pictures ranging from Rembrandt’s Flayed Ox to Hogarth’s The Four Stages of Cruelty, from paintings by Chardin, Gericault and Delacroix to works by Blake, Landseer, and William Holman Hunt, all demonstrate artists’ valuable contributions to societal conceptions of animals.’ – Choice
‘Eisenman artfully weaves together examples from literature (Jean de la Fontaine, John Oswald, Sartre, Kafka, Orwell), natural philosophy (Descartes, Montaigne, Diderot, La Mettrie, Rousseau), psychology (Freud), politics and economics (Marx), and animal welfare/rights discourse (Peter Singer, Gary Francione, William Wilberforce, Richard Martin) with interpretations of artistic works to create a varied and intertwined explanation of human-animal relationships from antiquity to the present.’ – Art Libraries of North America Review
‘The pleasure derived from reading this book lies partially in the richness of Eisenman’s detailed, personal, and confident descriptions of the lives and emotions of real animals, making his prose eminently accessible . . . The Cry of Nature is a significant accomplishment, reworking the classic subject study to ask the new question of how the art has served and can serve to change our conception of ourselves, animals, and the world we share with them. Eisenman’s prose transcends stylized accounts of animal rights activism as privilege and presents it instead a necessary next step in the growth of a civilized, and cultured, humanity.’ – Sehepunkte
Stephen F. Eisenman is Professor of Art History at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. His books include The Abu Ghraib Effect (Reaktion Books, 2007).
One: What is an Animal
Two: Animals into Meat
Three: The Cry of Nature
Five: Primal Scenes
Conclusion: Art and Animals Right Now