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Today’s Taxidermy Revival

By 1 April 2024April 24th, 2024No Comments

Today’s Taxidermy Revival

Taxidermy has come back in from the cold to become ultra chic. Taxidermy animals (including replicas) are appearing everywhere. Artists are using it. Museums are promoting their historic collections again.

The best of Victorian taxidermy is now haute couture design chic and is sought after by collectors and enthusiasts.

Top interior designers today use the best taxidermy as centrepieces in their home décor designs.

There are dealers who have specialised knowledge and only trade in the good pieces, some at eye-watering prices.

The best examples, the work of the better professional taxidermists, are in a class of their own.

Collectors look for the best cases by the top makers but these are relatively rare now. After all, they aren’t making any more of them.  Added to the rarity the condition must be good.  If you can find something uncommon or unusual at the same time, then you’ve hit the jackpot. But before you buy it, there’s something even more important than these things; above all else you must LOVE it.

Some of the top Victorian makers included Rowland and Henry Ward, Henry Murray, Peter Spicer, Thomas Gunn, James Gardner, Edward Gerrard, Joseph Cullingford et al, and there are several more – all super-collectible.  Their quality stands out, and these days they are coveted by collectors from all over the world.

The prices of some of these super examples can be significant, and they’re still rising. I have no doubt at all that they will continue to rise and if you know what you are looking at, then it’s a smart investment.

Photography, Television and Changing Attitudes

The arrival of photography was the beginning of the demise in the need to see animals up close in order to study them.

Once mass adoption of television arrived in Britain after 1945 at the end of the Second World War, people relied less upon taxidermy species found in museums for education.

People could see these animals as never before on the television screens in their own homes. The arrival of television coincides with the overall decline in the demand and interest in Victorian taxidermy by the mid 1960’s. By the 70’s and 80’s fur for clothing like coats and hats and big game hunting were shunned as wildlife conservation became an urgent topic.

Simon Wilson for Alexander McQueen 2007

Haute Couture Authenticity

Taxidermy is fashionable again, but it’s much less about aspiring to be like the aristocratic classes; it’s much more linked to the current trend for authenticity. 

You can find examples of some of the best pieces on sites like 1st Dibs and Vinterior. You can also find the odd, good piece on eBay, but you definitely need to know what you are looking for since most of it is of inferior quality and sometimes even illegal to sell. If you are savvy and determined, you can also find good pieces at auctions.

From about the early 2000s Fashion designers also returned to the theme of animals, birds and feathers for their haute couture shows. Alexander McQueen is one example. Simon Wilson, working as Simon the Stuffa, is a modern designer, taxidermist and artist who designs for movies and TV and creates taxidermy themed accessories for McQueen’s fashion shows.

Whether it’s because of their composition and setting in beautiful cases or their historical rarity or importance, these pieces are sought after now and after the drop in interest and appreciation of them from the 1960s onwards the good pieces that have survived are now very much in demand.

Carl Church – recreation of a Dodo. copyright Carl Church

Tony Armistead: European Eagle Owls. Copyright: Tony Armitstead.

Modern Taxidermists

Modern taxidermists and naturalists like Carl Church and Tony Armistead are leading the movement to shake off the old image and they are creating contemporary and relevant pieces that are much sought after by buyers in various markets, including the education scene.

At the same time, there is still demand and an appreciation for the old school style of taxidermy by the likes of Henry Murray and Peter Spicer.  Tony Armistead also recreates these styles in his work and the prices for his creations are buoyant.

Carl Church is a sculptor and educator, recreating pieces such as the Dodo for educational purposes.  A Dodo recreation can be found in the Kendal Museum in Cumbria, and his taxidermy work commands high prices at auction.

Modern Taxidermists making art

Established in 2013, Darwin, Sinke & van Tongeren are modern taxidermy artists dedicated to showing the beauty of nature in a baroque extravagant way

Van Tongeren and Sinke are ex advertising creatives from Ogilvy & Mather in Amsterdam. They established a new career in taxidermic art, a subject that had long fascinated them.

They launched their first collection ‘La Vie de L’Eden’ at the end of 2014. Subsequently Damien Hirst bought the entire first exhibition. Since then their 17th century-inspired work has been sold worldwide to museums, collectors, investors and also many artists and creatives around the world.

They sell via their website at Fine Taxidermy and also on 1st Dibs

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