A damned talented elephant

In 1982 James Ehmann (a journalist) and David Gucwa (a zoo keeper) showed to Jerome Witkin (a professor of art at Syracuse University and an authority on abstract expressionism) a set of drawings done by an elephant (a sample - on the right). They did not reveal to Prof. Witkin the identity of the artist and asked him to evaluate the pictures. The professor said "These drawings are very lyrical, very, very beautiful. They are so positive and affirmative and tense, the energy is so compact and controlled, it's just incredible... I can't get most of my students to fill a page like this." After learning the identity of the artist Witkin said: "Our egos as human beings have prevented us for too long for watching for the possibility of artistic expression in other beings."

In 1984 they sent elephant drawings to the famous abstract artist Willem de Kooning. They did not intend to trick him and included with the paintings a letter explaining their origin. They received the following reply from his wife Elaine de Kooning:

When Mr. de Kooning and I received your package, before we read your letter, we looked at the drawings and were very impressed by them. We felt they had a kind of flair and decisivness and originality. Neefless to say we were dumbfounded when wev read that they were made by an elephant.

Mr. de Kooning said "That's a damned talented elephant."

Meanwhile, every zoo keeper had noticed that every elephant from time to time picks up a stick or stone and draws something on the floor.

Source: David Gucwa and James Ehmann, To Whom It May Concern: An Investigation of the Art of Elephants

A drawing (pencil on paper) by Siri, an Asian elephant.


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