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Elephants’ Hidden Artistic Talents: Paintings Created By Elephants

by Larry Kellogg (11/08/10).

Have you ever seen an elephant painting? No, not a painting of an elephant. There are scores of those. What I’m talking about is a painting, actually painted by an elephant.

Yes, among their various talents, elephants do paint. In fact there’s an entire book on this subject, titled “When Elephants Paint,” written by Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid. According to the authors, some paintings have been auctioned by Christie’s for thousands of dollars, generating funds to provide proper care for elephants and their trainers.

“When Elephants Paint” is copyrighted 2000 and published by Perennial, an Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers. The book is available in hardback and trade paperback. Paperbacks can be found for under $10.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey elephants have been painting as part of the All-Access Pre-Show since the 1990s. The paintings are awarded to prize winners whose names are selected in a random drawing prior to the beginning of the performance. In the 1990s, Ringling elephant paintings were done on special T-shirts designed for just that purpose.

Elephant art created by Shirley in 1998.

The back of the T-shirt has the Ringling-Barnum logo and the words “Elephant Artistry.”

In more recent years the Ringling elephants have begun using artists’ canvas to create their paintings. Occasionally, these T-shirts show up on eBay and other auction sites and bring prices of $50 and up.

Elephant artist Asia puts paintbrush to canvas to create another masterpiece as her trainer Ryan Henning looks on. (Photo courtesy of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey ®)

My own elephant painting is a self portrait by Kelly Ann. If you look closely and use a little imagination, you can see that Kelly Ann painted an abstract image of an elephant. The elephant’s trunk is on the left. The four legs are represented by the green and red brush strokes.

A stamp of authenticity is placed on the Ringling elephant paintings, giving the name of the elephant artist and the month and year the painting was created.

Larry Kellogg is a WorthPoint Worthologist specializing in circus memorabilia.

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