The Bear Garden takes its cue from an actual event. In 1598 Paul Hentzner, a German traveller, describes a visit to the 'Bear Garden' in Southwark, where he witnesses a horrific entertainment:
'...the baiting of bulls and bears; they are fastened behind, and then worried by great English bull-dogs... To this entertainment there often follows that of whipping a blinded bear, which is performed by five or six men standing circularly with whips, which they exercise upon him without any mercy, as he cannot escape from them because of his chain...'
The practise of baiting animals bears and other animals was popular in England until the end of the eighteenth century, and enjoyed the patronage of the aristocracy - Henry VIII and Elizabeth I were enthusiastic supporters. The reversal in public opinion only began in the eighteenth century. Finally, baiting was prohibited by Parliament in the Cruelty to Animals Act 1835.
The Bear Garden contains three representations:
- the octagonal structure of the Hope Theatre: a purpose-built arena for blood sports in Southwark
- a modern idea of a bear: a playful cartoon creature
- an ancient idea of a bear: the Ursa Major constellation
India ink, acrylic paint and collage on paper.