Ever since the house’s inception in 1837 as a maker of harnesses and saddles, Hermès has maintained a deep connection with nature. Appropriate then is the Hermès theme this year, “Nature at Full Gallop,” which celebrates the house’s sustainable sourcing of materials and respect for nature. Hermès recently partnered with Panthera, the global wildcat conservation organization founded in 2006 by Thomas S. and Daphne Recanati Kaplan, to raise awareness of the uncertain existence of wild cats and their habitats. This month, Panthera chairman Thomas S. Kaplan and Hermès artistic director Pierre-Alexis Dumas presented the “Fierce and Fragile: Big Cats in the Art of Robert Dallet” at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut. The exhibition is part of the Robert Dallet Initiative for Wild Cat Conservation created by Kaplan and Dumas that seeks to raise awareness and proceeds for Panthera’s efforts.
The exhibition coincides with the 10-year anniversary of the French wild life artist Dallet’s death. His devotion to artistically rendering the personality and physical traits of felines in their natural environments led to multiple collaborations throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, such as with Air Afrique, the World Wildlife Fund, and eventually with Hermès in 1985. Taken by the unique quality of Dallet’s prints, Dumas approached the artist about designing prints for the house’s iconic scarves and household objects. The relationship between Dallet and Hermès resulted in designs for 25 scarves, wallpaper, ready-to-wear, and even will even be featured on Hermès’ 2016 tableware service, Camets d’Équateur.
“Fierce and Fragile: Big Cats in the Art of Robert Dallet” honors both the relationship and legacy of Dallet and Hermès, as well as the artist’s ability to merge science and art to create a positive global impact. The exhibition includes 75 of Dallet’s paintings, drawings, and sketches and highlights 8 species of big cats: tigers, lions, leopards, cheetahs, cougars, jaguars, snow leopards, and the clouded leopard. Wall texts provide pertinent information regarding each species and their respective conservation threats. After appearing at the Bruce Museum, the show will travel to Paris, Munich, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Mumbai asserting its significance on a truly global scale.
In addition to the exhibition, the Robert Dallet Initiative for Wild Cat Conservation includes proceeds from a generous scarf available at all boutiques, and an auction that was held on January 8 conducted by Sotheby’s. Up for auction were six one-of-a-kind Hermès objects embellished with Dallet’s designs. In 2016, Hermès will co-publish a book with Actes Sud commemorating Dallet’s life and legacy, as well as his place in the history of animal painting; and will include 120 reproduced plates of Dallet’s work.
“Fierce and Fragil: Big Cats in the Art of Robert Dallet” was curated by Dominique Surh with contributions by Menehould de Bazelaire. The exhibition is on view at the Bruce Museum until March 13, 2016.