John Schoenherr (a.k.a. Dad) had a long association with the Bronx Zoo. He started visiting back in the 1940s and kept at it until he moved to New Jersey in 1964. In the late ’50s and early ’60s, my mother sometimes accompanied him to help provoke the animals while he gathered photographic reference of aggressive beasts - mostly for illustrations in “men’s magazines,” featuring vicious animals attacking Great White Hunters and other hapless, but rugged stereotypes.
Dad had his first one-man show at the zoo in 1968 and as a family we would visit sometimes: we especially liked the hyena, named Pug, who lived in the “Big Cat House,” which, in my memory, resembled the lobby of a neoclassical post office or bank with the cats and Pug as ersatz tellers.
Dad made this particular picture sometime in the early 1960s by scratching out the white lines and textures on black scratchboard - a rare variation on his usual method, where he applied ink where he wanted it on and then scratched away on white scratchboard.