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Nexus of Art and Conservation to Save Big Cats​

Ten years after the death of Robert Dallet, a wildlife artist who painted for Hermès for decades, the Paris-based luxury brand is partnering with Panthera to honor Dallet’s legacy through the creation of the Robert Dallet Initiative for Wild Cat Conservation “to support the latest conservation science and innovation,” the two organizations said today.

The initiative will bring a world-renowned artist’s life’s work to bear for the conservation of wild cats, according to Panthera, a New York-based nonprofit devoted to the conservation of the world’s 38 wild cat species and their ecosystems.

The initiative kick offs with an exhibition of Dallet’s work in the United States at the Bruce Museum of Arts and Science in Greenwich, Connecticut. It will later tour in Europe and Asia.

Robert Dallet INDOCHINESE LEOPARD, Panthera pardus delacouri Gouache and watercolor on paper, 50 × 65 cm ca. 1980s Émile Hermès Collection Photo Studio des fleurs. © Hermès, Paris 2015.
Indochinese Leopard (Panthera pardus delacouri), painted by Robert Dallet. Gouache and watercolor on paper, 50 × 65 cm ca. 1980s. Photo Studio des fleurs. © Hermès, Paris 2015.

Panthera is simultaneously launching its first ever region-wide leopard conservation initiative in Southeast Asia, where the species is extinct in 95 percent of its historic range due to a drastic spike in poaching and human development in the past 20 years. Panthera is petitioning the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to list the leopard as Endangered in that region.

This and other Panthera wild cat conservation programs around the world will be supported in part by proceeds from the sale of a new Hermès scarf featuring a leopard painting by Dallet.

Dreams and Vision

“Fierce and Fragile: Big Cats in the Art of Robert Dallet,” the exhibition presented by Hermès for the benefit of Panthera, “is the realization of the dreams and vision of many, rooted in passionately held ideals and a love of nature,” said Pierre-Alexis Dumas, artistic director of Hermès, in a press statement. “It is invested with personal emotion and a sense of responsibility – to one man, and to the world of big cats.”

It was unbearable to Dallet that so many species were disappearing in his own lifetime, Dumas added. “His work is a reminder of the absolute necessity to look at nature with empathy, not to lose touch with our own sensitivity and our ability to feel emotions.”

Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), painted by Robert Dallet. Gouache and watercolor on paper, 50 × 65 cm ca. 1980s Émile Hermès Collection Photo Studio des fleurs. © Hermès, Paris 2015.
Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), painted by Robert Dallet. Gouache and watercolor on paper, 50 × 65 cm ca. 1980s Photo Studio des fleurs. © Hermès, Paris 2015.

By making Dallet’s hitherto little-known genius available to a worldwide audience on the tenth anniversary of his death with a traveling exhibition, a book, and a generous scarf – all to support Panthera on the tenth anniversary of its creation – Hermès hoped to help raise awareness about the precarious existence of wild cats and their environments on a global basis, Dumas added.

“Through the exhibition and the conservation initiative that bear his name, Hermès and Panthera are wedding Robert Dallet’s extraordinary expression of the beauty and mystery of the planet’s wild cats to this ambitious effort to secure their survival,” said Panthera Chairman Thomas S. Kaplan. “The Robert Dallet Initiative for Wild Cat Conservation, a uniquely inspired environmental alliance, is a concrete reaffirmation of Leonardo da Vinci’s insight that “art is the queen of all sciences, communicating knowledge to all the generations of the world.”

Cover of the book that is companion to the exhibit "Fierce and Fragile: Big Cats in the Art of Robert Dallet".
Cover of the book that is companion to the exhibit “Fierce and Fragile: Big Cats in the Art of Robert Dallet”.

“Fierce and Fragile: Big Cats in the Art of Robert Dallet” will have its inaugural showing in January 2016 at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut. It will then tour in Europe (Paris and Munich) and Asia (Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Mumbai). Curated by Dominique Surh of the Leiden Collection, the Kaplan family’s private art collection, with contributions from Ménéhould de Bazelaire, director of Hermès Cultural Patrimony, the exhibition will feature 75 of Dallet’s paintings, drawings, and sketches, focusing on eight species of big cats: tigers, lions, leopards, cheetahs, cougars or pumas, jaguars, snow leopards, and the clouded leopard. Wall texts will provide information on each species, contextualizing what is evidenced in Dallet’s work and addressing each cat species’ respective conservation threats. The exhibition will be accompanied by a book co-published by Hermès and Actes Sud in 2016.

12418031_10153900711084116_8462971761216697621_nDavid Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.

He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.

Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship

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