|Joseph Wolf (1820–1899)
Detail of ‘Cynopithecus niger, in a placid condition’ and ‘when pleased by being caressed’, Studies for Darwin’s Expression of the Emotions of Man and Animals, 1872, c. 1871–72
Darwin’s book on The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872) was a follow-up to The Descent of Man. In both works, Darwin claimed that, since the human race had evolved from an animal ancestor, our minds are not essentially different from those of animals.
Many religious writers had insisted that man was unique in having a reasoning mind and conscience that govern his actions. Darwin, in contrast, believed that humans, just as much as animals, rely on inherited instincts. So, too, the ‘higher’ animals are capable of thought and emotions similar to ours. Their faces and gestures are also highly expressive. The sadness of a sick monkey, Darwin wrote, ’is as plain and almost as pathetic as in the case of our children’. Man himself could not express love and humility ’so plainly as does a dog, when with drooping ears…wagging tail, he meets his beloved master’. In The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, Darwin analysed many animal expressions of this kind with a new insight and interest, constantly comparing them with those of humans.
When planning the book, Darwin thought about the possibilities and problems of visual illustration more intensely than he ever had done before. The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals was famously one of the first scientific works to be illustrated with photographs, including studies of human expression by Guillaume-Benjamin Duchenne de Boulogne and Oscar Gustav Rejlander. But, in the case of animals, he found it necessary to turn to artists who had experience in capturing their momentary movements, notably Briton Riviere. Here Darwin’s belief in the kinship of animals and humans brought him very close to the animal painters of the Victorian era: a photograph of Sir Edwin Landseer’s painting Alexander and Diogenes was found among his papers relating to Expression. Landseer and Riviere idealised dogs as the devoted friends of man and often credited them, as Darwin did, with human qualities and virtues.
|Briton Riviere (1840–1920)
Dog ‘in a humble and affectionate frame of mind’, Study for Darwin’s Expression of the Emotions of Man and Animals (detail), 1872, c. 1871–72
|Guillaume-Benjamin Duchenne de Boulogne (1806–1875)
‘Deep suffering with resignation’, from Mécanisme de la physionomie humaine by Guillaume-Benjamin Duchenne de Boulogne (1806–1875). Paris: Renouard, 1862
|Oscar Gustav Rejlander (1813–1875)
Mrs Rejlander ’sneering’ used in Darwin’s Expression of the Emotions of Man and Animals, 1872