Home The Bears Who Appreciated Beauty

Maureen sketches from a bears den

Sitting Bear, Kurilskoye Lake, 1994

In 1996, I, Maureen, began to suspect that the bears dug many of their nests in locations where they could enjoy the view and began to accept the possibility that they have an aesthetic sensibility. This past season, with the help of our cubs who often led me to nesting sites, I became convinced that my theory developed the year before was true. Within a week of our arrival at Kambalnoe with the cubs, I discovered them curled up in an old bear's nest and observed them sitting up and peacefully looking out across the lake. The cubs and I discovered many more hollows in the ground, with ever increasingly spectacular vistas.

I produced, over the next four months, an exhibition of three parts, which I exhibited in Petropavlovsk. The first segment of paintings were of the sites. I sat above the nests and painted them as I perceived them. Then I would sit in these nests, imagining that I was a bear, allowing the energy of the surrounding area to influence my style. Looking out at the bear's eye level I decided the bear interpreted the scene like an impressionist painter. This segment, of a larger exhibition in progress, was exhibited at the Cultural Centre of the Science Library in Pertopavlovsk in October of 1997.

The final component was a line of 6 drawings of the cubs in the nests. In the Petropavlovsk exhibit the two most common questions asked by the Russians were: "What makes you think the bears see the land like an impressionist?" and "I too think they admire beauty, but why so many bright colours?"

I knew then I had them hooked. If they could ask those questions, they were accepting a level of understanding about this animal's intelligence not usually associated with bears.


© Lenticular Productions Ltd. 1998