At first glance, Walton Ford’s large-scale, highly-detailed watercolors of animals may recall the prints of 19th century illustrators John James Audubon and Edward Lear, and others of the colonial era. But a closer look reveals a complex and disturbingly anthropomorphic universe, full of symbols, sly jokes, and allusions to the ’operatic’ nature of traditional natural history themes. The beasts and birds populating this contemporary artist’s life-size paintings are never mere objects, but dynamic actors in allegorical struggles: a wild turkey crushes a small parrot in its claw; a troupe of monkeys wreak havoc on a formal dinner table, an American buffalo is surrounded by bloodied white wolves. The book’s title derives from The Pancha Tantra, an ancient Indian book of animal tales considered the precursor to Aesop’s Fables.
This large-format edition includes an in-depth exploration of Walton Ford’s oeuvre, a complete biography, and excerpts from his textual inspirations: Vietnamese folktales and the letters of Benjamin Franklin, the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini and Audubon’s Ornithological Biography.
First published in TASCHEN’s limited collector’s edition — now available in this standard hardcover edition!
Walton Ford, born 1960, studied filmmaking at RISD (Rhode Island School of Design), but soon realized he was a painter. For the last twenty years he has been creating large-scale narrative watercolours. His work has been widely exhibited, including solo shows at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin and the Brooklyn Museum in New York.
Bill Buford is an author and New Yorker staff writer, as well as the founding editor of Granta, which he edited for 16 years. His books include Among the Thugs and Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as a Kitchen Slave. He lives in New York City with his wife and two sons.