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Themes Used in Walton Ford’s Art

Walton Ford art pieces are large-scale watercolor portraits that tell unique historical stories. Ford’s vivid expressions of animals emphasize the relationship between humans and nature.

Common themes in these Walton Ford paintings are political oppression and natural world history. Here is more information about the themes used in Walton Ford’s art: 

Political Oppression

Walton Ford art satirizes the history of colonialism, the influence of slavery, and other examples of political oppression. His paintings serve as an indictment of the wrongs made by 19th-century industrialists.

Ford used animals to represent the effects of vulgar and violent human conduct. These scenes depict different forms of oppression that people and nature have experienced because of consumerism and human expansion. 

In “The Lion of God” by Walton Ford, a large male lion is shown carrying a bible dripping with blood in its jaws. This artwork symbolizes the role of force and oppression in the spread of Christianity.

While human figures rarely appear in Ford’s paintings, their effect is implied through the artist’s representation of the animals. 

Natural and Supernatural World History

Ford used natural history as an inspiration to create a collection of paintings that addressed the human impact on the extinction of the Barbary lion population.

Ford’s painting, “Loss of the Lisbon Rhinoceros,” is inspired by the story of a captive Indian rhino being delivered as a gift from Portugal’s King Manuel to the Roman Pope in 1515. He also created representations of supernatural creatures in his artwork.

Supernatural creatures show up in paintings like “Rhyndacus.” Ford derived inspiration for this piece from the Greek writer Aelian’s “On the Nature of Animals.” This book suggests that a sixty-foot serpent inhabited the historical kingdom of Phrygia and magically drew prey into its open mouth.

In “Rhyndacus,” Ford presents the imaginary snake in a vivid and detailed 10-foot portrait that captures the enormity of the creature. Like Aelian’s account, the creature in Ford’s “Rhyndacus” attracts a flock of birds into its open jaws. 

Human and Animal Relationships

Ford’s artwork is influenced by his extensive research of the ways people perceive the natural world. The artist’s focus on Barbary lions exemplifies the human tendency to assign certain symbols to the animal world.

The earliest civilizations historically depicted the Barbary lion as a representation of royalty and power. Ford’s art shows how such perceptions may have influenced an obsession and fear of Barbary lions among humans. The fear and fascination humans developed toward the Barbary lions endangered their survival. 

Ford uses expressions of historical legends in his work, like the Leipzig Lion Hunt that led to the hunting and killing of six lions that escaped the zoo. Ford used these legends to depict the role of humans in the extinction of the Barbary lions.

The “Loss of the Lisbon Rhinoceros” is a painting of a rhino documented to have died in a shipwreck while being transported to the Pope. This painting displays how the perception of animals as gifts and fascinating objects influences hostile human relationships with the wild. 


One of Ford’s paintings, “The Sensorium,” presents monkeys having a party and acting like humans. He painted the monkeys in human-like poses, sitting around a dining table, eating and reading.

Ford’s unique representation of animals with human traits adds humor to artwork that focuses on serious topics like colonialism.

The theme of humor in Walton Ford’s “The Sensorium” is rooted in his time spent with Richard Burton, who studied the modes of communication of monkeys.

Explore Walton Ford Art at a Gallery

Common themes in Walton Ford’s art are world history and human-animal relationships. Through his paintings, Walton Ford expresses the harmful ways people have interacted with animal populations and habitats.

His watercolor paintings incorporate humor and educate viewers about social injustices and other societal issues. Visit a commercial gallery today to view some of Walton Ford’s famous pieces.

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