The 51st Annual Exhibition at The Dennos Museum Center, Traverse City, MI
The 51st Annual Exhibition at The Dennos Museum Center, Traverse City, MI

An Introduction to the Society of Animal Artists

The Society of Animal Artists is an organization comprised of members who produce the best animal art in the world. The mission of the Society of Animal Artists is to promote excellence in the portrayal of domesticated and wild animals in art. The upshot of this nexus of talent and mission, is that artworks created by members of the Society of Animal Artists have established new standards of excellence in fine art, and that the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Animal Artists and its traveling exhibition, Art and the Animal, have become the standard by which all others are measured. The Society of Animal Artists has an historical affinity with organizations that grew out of a movement to form associations and clubs dedicated to art in the 19th century. Like the National Academy of Design and other such organizations, the Society of Animal Artists is mandated by its bylaws to organize annual exhibitions to ensure new, strong and fresh artwork and afford its members with ample display opportunities. It is also worth noting that the Society of Animal Artists was founded in response to an exhibition entitled Animals in the Bronx Zoo, held at Burr Galleries in New York, because this established an historical affinity with the conservation movement, which various members have supported ever since, not only through the ecological message of their artwork but also through generous contributions and sales. David J. Wagner, Ph.D., SAA Tour Director

The Society of Animal Artists is recognized as a 501(c)3 charitable organization by the I.R.S. and all contributions to the Society are tax-deductible.

History of the Society of Animal Artists

The Society of Animal Artists Headquarters
Photo by Jay J. Johnson.
FOUNDING & EARLY YEARS: In the 1950s, individuals from the New York metropolitan area who liked to meet and paint at the Bronx Zoo together staged "Animals in the Bronx Zoo" at the Burr Gallery sponsored by the New York Zoological Society. Patricia Allen Bott and Guido Borghi were inspired to form the organization after an enthusiastic reception to this exhibition. The fledgling Society soon became a member of the renowned Salmagundi Club, and established an office in their building at 47 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. Early Exhibitions were held in various galleries such as Sportsman’s Edge, Grand Central Art Galleries and the Alder Gallery (All in New York City).
In addition to Bott and Borghi, early members included: Elizabeth Rungius Felda [Sister of Carl Rungius], Paul Bransom, John Clymer, Gifford Cochran, Brenda Frey, Anna Hyatt Huntington, Gertude K. Lathrop, Robert Lougheed, Ugo Mochi, Clement Weisbecker and Walter Wilwerding.

CATALOGS & EXHIBITIONS: The first SAA catalog, produced in 1978 for the exhibition at Sportsman’s Edge Gallery, consisted of 8 pages and was black and white. In 1979, the SAA had its first actual Annual Exhibition opening (again at Sportsman’s Edge), with formal programs and events. A 20 page black and white catalog was produced. In 1980, the "Society of Animal Artists Exhibition/Convention" was hosted by Game Conservation International at the Four Seasons Plaza Nacional Hotel, San Antonio, TX. A 28 page, black and white catalog was produced. The first four-color catalog (44 pages) was produced in 1990, for the 30th Annual Exhibition at St. Hubert’s Giralda, NJ.

The SAA has hosted annual exhibitions since 1960 with the exhibition first being named "Art and the Animal" in 1988. The first museum venue was the Academy of Sciences in Philadelphia in 1981. In 1988 the Society recruited David J. Wagner to create and manage tours of artworks selected from annual exhibitions and to secure hosts for its annual exhibitions. SAA exhibitions have been displayed throughout the United States, with approximately 70% of hosting venues having been art museums or general museums that have included art as an integral dimension of their core mission. Over the years, the SAA’s work has been on display at more than 100 different institutions across the United States—and once in Canada in 1995 at the Old Algonquin Museum, Algonquin Park, Ontario.
See the Exhibitions page for a complete historical listing and available PDF catalogs

AWARDS: The Award of Excellence was first awarded in 1979 and the first monetary award was given in 1988. The SAA now presents the Awards of Excellence and offers more than six monetary awards on an annual basis. Starting in 1992, Wildlife Art magazine sponsored an annual award and in 2010, the 50th Anniversary, two sponsored awards from Southwest Art magazine and Western Art Collector magazine were also awarded. Additionally, starting in 2010, the SAA presented their first Lifetime Achievement Award to Robert Bateman.
See the Awards page for a complete historical listing.

THE DIGITAL AGE:The SAA website was brought to fruition in late 2000 under the direction of incoming President Francis Sweet and Executive Board Member Janet N. Heaton working with the volunteer efforts of Wes Siegrist. The website officially launched in January 2001. Longstanding Board Member, David Rankin, continued the momentum online developing a virtual museum used by the SAA from 2009 into 2012. Robert Caldwell led the established Society into Facebook. A Social Media Communications Committee was formed in 2012 comprised of Robert Caldwell, Susan Fox, Jan Martin McGuire and Wes Siegrist to manage and coordinate everything online for the SAA.

SAA MEMBERSHIP: Unquestionably, the past and present membership roster of the Society of Animal Artists reads as a veritable Who's Who in animal art from around the world. Capturing wild and domestic creatures great and small, on land, sea and air, in a wide range of media and artistic expression, SAA artists continually pursue excellence and broaden appreciation for subjects of the natural world as Fine Art.

See the Members page for current active members and those in memoriam.
See the Frequently Asked Questions page for more insights on the SAA.
See the Archived Photos page for a walk down memory lane. (Older photos being added as received)

  • Elizabeth Rungius Fulda, 1960
  • Paul Bransom, 1961-1976
  • Albert Earl Gilbert, 1977-1983
  • Joseph Vance, Jr., 1984-1994
  • Charles Allmond III, 1995-2000
  • Francis Sweet, 2001-2003
  • Leslie Delgyer, 2004-2008
  • Diane D Mason, 2009-2013

This page is a work in progress with additional information pending. Please notify the webmaster or SAA Office if you have information to add ~ Thanks!


If you would like to become a Patron Member of the Society of Animal Artists, please send a check or money order made payable to the Society of Animal Artists to:
Society of Animal Artists, Inc
C/O Bob Mason, 5451 Sedona Hills Drive, Berthoud, CO 80513

Click here for information on how to join with downloadable forms.

All images on this website are © The Society of Animal Artists and the respective Artists.
Photos on this page courtesy of Jay J. Johnson, David J. Wagner and the Dennos Museum Center.