Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Big Cat Attack!

Years ago, a friend used to quote me something which, I think, was supposed to have been said by the beat writer, William S. Burroughs: "Guns are bad - but knives are worse... nobody likes to get cut."

To which I would add: "...or be pounced upon by 200 pounds of razor sharp teeth and coiled-steel muscles intent on making a meal of you."

Yes, if you flip through enough old magazines you'll start to see some odd themes emerging... and Big Cat Attacks seems to be one of them. There are plenty of "great white hunter" stories about bears, buffalo and even gorillas - but nothing like the volume of big cat attack stories. We humans seem to have a fear (or at least a fascination) of that particular kind of death hardwired into the kernel of our collective primate DNA.

That was certainly the case for me back in 1973. My Oma had sent me the beautiful Bunter Kinder-Kosmos book from which the image below is scanned. I enjoyed studying the incredible dinosaur paintings in the front 2/3rds of the book... but when I first laid eyes on this illustration of a leaping sabertooth tiger I was filled with anxiety. The fate of the fallen cave man in the bottom right frame was imminently clear to 9-year-old me.

So this week, let's take a look at the man-eaters of the Felidae family and if you like to look at this sort of thing in all its terrifying glory, you can see the full size version in my new Big Cat Attack! Flickr set.


  1. OKAY! Now we're in my favorite zone!! LOL Big cat fanatic that I am, it's a real treat to see these! The great thing about these is that, unlike most traditional wildlife art (the theory being people don't want violent paintings or prints on their walls), they show the cats in attack mode. Great pieces! Thanks, Leif!

  2. Thanks for your comment, Joe! I know you'll enjoy the rest of this week... we'll be in attack mode pretty much all the way to Friday. ;-)

  3. Maybe humans are hard-wired to fear death-by-big-cat -- but outside the world of adventure illustration, I just can't think of any other genre of painting in which it has occurred.
    (maybe the subject was just too scary to contemplate -- back when it was actually a possibility)

    Here in Chicago - we've got those big lions that ate all those Africans about a hundred years ago -- they've been stuffed and mounted on the ground floor of the Field Museum -- and yes, they are very scary.

    I'm really enjoying your (and David's) illustration blogs -- but I'm wondering -- what about the illustrations for magazines from France, Germany, Japan, etc. ?

    Have you heard of any non-English blogs about illustration ?

  4. Thanks for your comment, chris! I'm very glad to hear you're enjoying the blog - and David's as well - I learn a lot from him.

    I'm not aware of any European classic illustration sites, but perhaps someone will read this and let us know if such a place exists - I'd sure love to learn about the art and artists of Europe from thiis same period!