I just fancied curating a cool collection of vintage polar bear art prints this week.
It was when I was listening to the radio the other day and they were debating whether or not zoos are cruel and outdated. Many references in the programme were made to the cruelty of keeping larger animals such as polar bears in zoos.
A lot of the talk was about the sad case of Misha a polar bear in Bristol zoo. Misha was rescued from the circus and placed in Bristol zoo in 1979. Misha lived until 1992 when he was euthanized after living a pretty miserable existence.
The story of Misha was an important one as his distressing behaviour ignited debate about the role of zoos. His story was picked up around the world and it became a turning point in how animals are kept in zoos globally.
I have never seen a polar bear in real life as I refuse to see them in the zoo’s as I think it is cruel to keep them there. Also, I’ve never visited anywhere where they live in the wild.
However, my husband is from Norway and often talks about making a trip to the north of Norway to see the Northern lights so that might be an opportunity to go polar bear spotting. Not too close though!
Interesting Facts About Polar Bears
- The polar bear’s habitat is mainly within the Arctic circle.
- It is the largest carnivorous land mammal.
- Male polar bears can weigh as much as 700kg.
- Their scientific name is Ursus maritimus which means maritime bear. Even though polar bears are born on land they spend most of the lives on Arctic Ocean ice, hence the name.
- Their favorite food to hunt seals.
- Polar bears live for about 30 years.
- Even though both inhabit the frozen North, polar bears don’t hunt reindeer. Apparently, reindeer are too fast for polar bears to catch! (I have vintage reindeer drawings here)
I hope you enjoy this collection of wonderful polar bear art prints. Just click on the title of the print you want to download a higher resolution copy. All the prints here are in the public domain which means you are free to use them as you please.
The Cool Polar Bear Art Prints
This first Polar bear art print is from the Welcome collection. The drawing is by Josiah Wood Whimper and 19th Century British natural history illustrator.
The illustration has a lovely description of the life and habitat of Polar bears at the bottom. I especially love the ending quote when referring to the virtues of the female of the species.
“She would, it is said, rather die, than desert her helpless charge. What reproofs, or rather what lessons, do the ways of some animals convey to the unkind and thoughtless of our own race!”
I don’t know much about this polar bear art except that it is a 1913 poster for the “Deutsche Arktische Expedition“. The graphic designer was Hans Lindenstaedt.
Another polar bear illustration from the Welcome Collection. A polar bear is devouring its prey, a seal, on an ice floe in the Arctic sea while three arctic foxes watch eagerly from an adjacent ice floe
An unusual polar bear pose, of a bear lying in wait at a seal breathing hole. This vintage polar bear illustration is from the magazine “Animal life and the world of nature: a magazine of natural history throughout the world“, from about 1903.
This colourful polar bear art print again shows the animal with its favourite meal, a hunted seal. This picture is from the rather sexist titled 1903 book “Hunting and Trapping Stories; A Book for Boys“.
There is a delightful little story in the book after the picture which is as follows:
“Without doubt, the King of the North is the great white Polar Ik-ar. This animal is famous for its great bulk, its strength and its magnificent fur. It is a terrible fighter and allows no enemy to encroach upon its domains.
The only other animal that can be said to pretend to rule in the north is the mighty walrus. The story is told of a trial of strength between two bears and an old bull walrus.
Now the walrus is easily twice the size and weight of a polar bear and is armed with two enormous tusks. A number of cows and calves were out sunning themselves upon the ice when two polar bears approached and decided that one of the little walrus calves would make a nice dinner.
The cows became uneasy and the old bull shuffled from side to side and bellowed warnings to the two intruders. At length, the cows got the calves into the water and swam away but the old bull was not to be beaten off so easily and stood its ground.“
This polar bear painting is by Norwegian artist Thorolf Holmboe and is from the Norwegian National Library.
An illustration of a pair of growling polar bears from the 1880 book “Johnson’s Household Book of Nature”
This painting of several polar bears on ice floes is from the French book “Le Monde de la Mer” (The World of the Sea) by Frédol, Alfred.
As mentioned in the introduction as polar bears spend most of their time on ice floes in the Arctic ocean they are classified as marine mammals.
This Polar Bear illustration is dated 1792 and by the zoologist George Shaw.
This polar bear illustration is from the 1916 published book “The Larger North American Mammals” by Fuertes, Louis Agassiz; Nelson, Edward William.
Polar bears feature on the wonderful Larousse vintage animal posters collection along with many other popular mammals. There is also a wonderful scene of polar bears and Eskimos in this vintage geography poster of Yaggy’s.