Fighting Lions

William Rimmer American, born England
Cast by John Williams American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 774

Rimmer was always fascinated by lions; he drew, painted, and sculpted them. While he may have known the lions depicted in paintings by Théodore Gericault and Eugène Delacroix, he was almost surely influenced by the work of French animal sculptor Antoine-Louis Barye. Rimmer’s colleague William Morris Hunt had introduced Barye’s sculpture to Boston collectors in the 1860s, so Rimmer likely knew his realistic statuettes of battling beasts, at the very least through engravings. "Fighting Lions" portrays a male and female lion locked in combat, an angry, turbulent mass of interlocked forms. Rimmer’s intimate knowledge of animal anatomy is evident, especially in his rendering of the straining muscles beneath the rippling, activated surface. In his writings, he frequently returned to the motif of animals caught in epic battles, symbolically connecting to moral chaos. Notably, the genders of the lions may have been a pointed reference to the ongoing struggles for women’s rights, of which Rimmer was a vocal supporter.

Fighting Lions, William Rimmer (American (born England), Liverpool 1816–1879 South Milford, Massachusetts), Bronze, American

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