Cats in Art

It is not hard to guess what do cats have that it attracts artists. In first place, an elegant form, capable of adopting multiple postures and movements, all of them a challenge to the brush, pencil or chisel. In second place, the attractiveness of a creature so reserved that its interior life can only be perceived or suggested by art. And for last, the multiple situations in which you can represent a cat: As a hunter, a domestic pet, as the main theme or even as a simple decoration.

First Representations
The artists and artisans of the ancient Egypt explored many of the facets of the character of felines, as a hunter, deity and even as a comical creature.

In an old Thailand book of poems of cats, the illustrators repeated some of these same themes, as did the watercolor painters and Japanese draftsmen and the monks of medieval Europe.

Cats also appear on the quilts of roofs and the mercy of the medieval churches and cathedrals, masterpieces of artisans, that had a relative freedom to let its imagination fly.

Even at the algid moments of persecution of cats by the Roman Catholic Church, the Italian painter of the XV Century Pinturicchio couldn’t resist to introduce a white cat into what would have been an empty and dumb space in its visitation to the Virgin Mary. Also other authors as known as Leonardo Da Vinci represented cats in their masterpieces.

Many were the painters that included the figure of a cat in their paintings.

Alberto Durero in the tree of knowledge uses a cat as a symbol of the strength and skill of men, while the fragile and fleeing mouse serves him for representing the women.

Velasquez also painted a white and black cat resting in middle of the frantic activity of the women spinners.

In the XVIII Century, when, after the cruel persecution to which cats were submitted, they again began to be considered as respectable creatures, and started to appear in paintings.

The French painters specially loved cats and the tradition continued in the XIX Century, in an outstanding way with Manet.

For the English painters that painted the Victorian country life, it was practically obligatory to include a cat, for example, in the interior as a symbol of a happy home.

Maybe the attention that a female cat gives to its whelps made cats an appropriate symbolism of a happy Victorian familiar life. On the popular art, cats appeared in cushion covers, screens and linen patterns, and porcelain cats decorated many chimney shelves.

At the end of the century a new theme began to come forth, it was probably originated by Theophile Steinlen a Swiss painter established in Paris that began to use cats on its advertising signs for foods.

In that time, painters discovered that commerce was profitable, and portraits of cats acquired more sentimental and anthropomorphous tints. They were represented as women of high society, florists, ballet, dancers, babies, milkmaids, and servants.

The natural essence of the cat was cost under a cloak of sentimentalism in an advance of what would happen in the XX Century.

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