The sculptor August Gaul (1869-1921) specialised in portraying animals, mostly in bronze. Unlike the conventional, often anecdotal animal depictions by his contemporaries, Gaul's animals are always living individuals, whether a running ostrich, a wallowing donkey, a lying goat or a life-size lion watching over the colonnaded courtyard on the Museum Island. Gaul observed and sketched the animals in Berlin Zoo and attempted to capture the typical character of each kind. His Lion is not a fearsome king amongst animals, but a calm, attentively watching animal, whose silhouette is recognisable from all sides.

Gaul's Lion was first displayed in the Deutscher Kunstlerbund's first exhibition in Munich in 1904 and was purchased by the Nationalgalerie a year later. In 2010, the colonnaded courtyard was renovated and the sculpture was placed here among other statues from the collection.

August Gaul's highly valued animal sculptures have also been acquired by other Berlin collections. Apart from the Nationalgalerie, the Stiftung Stadtmuseum and Georg Kolbe Museum also possess works by him.

Gaul's Otter was created for his friend and colleague in the Berlin Secession, Max Liebermann, for his garden.