Tiger at Dawn
(scroll down for description)
30” x 48”, acrylic, 1984
The tiger is, of course, one of the two most spectacular cats in the world. The lion is the dominant predator in Africa, but in Asia it is the tiger. Various races are found from the hot, lush tropics of Indonesia to the cold, coniferous forests of Siberia. But it is the Bengal race of India that most typifies our idea of a tiger. Stories, true and legendary, abound. They all portray the tiger as clever, stealthy, strong and fierce. Unlike the lion, the tiger has lived for centuries in areas where man is the commonest, prey-sized animal.

The tiger has a deserved reputation as a man-eater. When given a choice, the tiger will avoid man and take a deer. But crippled or starving tigers are more desperate and will attack humans, particularly the defenseless very young and very old. To me, the idea of the lion conjures up visions of pristine, wide-open plains, a Garden of Eden of animals. The tiger conjures up ideas of the rich and elaborate Indian cultures with ornate palaces, decorated elephants and lush, complex jungles. The coat of the tiger seems to fit this exotic image. In fact, it is so striking and bizarre that I have hesitated to paint it. This is why I chose this setting for my painting.

In a sense, this is a picture of grass. The striking vertical yellow and amber stalks with the intermittent shadows are as strong as the tiger's stripes. In fact, his spectacular coat is amazingly camouflaged in the jungle. I have shown him at dawn, coming for a drink. The morning light just catches the top of his head but shines fully on the central clump of grass which I played up to compete with the tiger. I also placed a shocking green sprig of grass near the centre of the picture to create a disturbing element. The only other green in the picture is in the tiger's eyes. I wanted to set up a disturbing, electric tension between the shocking green sprig of grass and the tiger's eyes.