Cats in Art History

Calling all feline lovers! The special bond between cats and humans is not new. Cats have always befriended, purred, and meowed around mankind – and there is plenty of proof in art history.

Thousands of ancient paintings present a close relationship between cats and their owners. Hundreds of artists have dedicated their career to capturing the pure enjoyment of kittens with their favorite playmate.

Cat lovers often celebrate the beauty of these paintings and adorn their walls with vivid art of cats. Sleeping, playing, eating, fighting – cats have been captured doing it all. 

Idleness II, by John Willian Godward

John William Godward used a charming landscape and a vibrant color palette to create this remarkable Neo-classical piece. In Idleness II, he posed a single black-haired model with fair skin against a classical landscape. She is sitting idly, very relaxed, on the marble bench.   

She is draped in a gorgeous long dress made out of a delicate yellow fabric. A red belt wrapped around her bust and arms and a purple fabric around her waist resonates with the style used in classical Greek sculptures and paintings. Her leather sandals reinforce classical and Greek stereotypes. She is playing with a little orange-striped kitten with a dangling peacock feather.

The sea-facing round-shaped balcony gives a vibe similar to ancient architectural structures. The marble bench she’s sitting on has subtle texture, but the cracks and dark oranges edges suggest that it is worn from the weather. Some delicate pink flowers peeking from behind the bench adds color to the scene. 

Godward aimed to keep the portrait vivid and colorful but also maintained an alluring and subtle sentiment. All the bright colors give the impression that it was in the middle of a beautiful day.

Sleeping Girl Aka Girl with a Cat

Sleeping Girl is a stunning masterwork by Pierre Auguste Renoir. Finished in 1880, the scene captures the subject’s relaxing mid-day slumber. Hues of daylight and bright colors take over the background. 

Sleeping Girl is a brilliant play of light and shade. The freely dabbed brushstrokes of cool and warm colors suggest an intimate atmosphere.

The girl resting on the red-cushioned chair is wearing a white blouse and a violet skirt, with striped socks and black slippers. She is wearing a matching hat with decorative pink flowers on it. 

One of the blouse straps has fallen from her shoulder. This details and her relaxed expression shows that she is in a deep sleep. Her illuminated hand is a perfect example of Renoir’s excellence with lights and reflections. Her hands are caressing a blue-gray cat.

Who’s The Fairest of Them All, Frank Paton

One of Frank Paton’s most famous paintings, ‘The Fairest of Them All’ is one of the most famous arts featuring cats. Like most of Paton’s paintings, the cat in this painting is from the Victorian era. 

In this famous composition, an eager cat is glaring at his reflection on a classic 19th-century mirror. Even though very subtle colors have been used, the background is packed with details. The luxurious ruffled fabric with lace on the stool, the dark wood furniture, delicate carvings, and the heavy textured curtains – all reflect the Victorian era. 

The subject’s uninterrupted gaze into the mirror captures its curiosity. The dropped candle on the right is more proof of his impatience and keenness. The window on one side of the room is getting sufficient light to brighten the room.

This beautiful depiction of a cat’s self-admiration would make a perfect addition to a fancy dressing room. The color palette used by Paton is not too overpowering and complements a wide variety of rooms. 

Her Best Friend, Emile Munier

Emile Munier portrays a young blonde-haired girl with a kitten in ‘Her Best Friend.’ Munier’s famous painting Trois Amis features the same chubby girl playing in a bed with a cat and a dog. After the success of Trois Amis, he continued to work with these characters and gained popularity as a painter of young children and their pets. 

In ‘Her Best Friend’ the Parisian artist shows exceptional talent by depicting the subjects’ short-lived movements and expressions. This wonderfully executed portrait presents his well-affirmed style. 

The background of the painting is dull with subtle hints of texture, but the main focus is on the girl, her kitten, and their guiltless gaze. It’s a depiction of true friendship and warmth.

The Bottom Line

But how did these painters depict the true nature of cats so well? You’re not alone if these paintings leave you wanting to know more.

A first glance is not enough to take note of all the precise details. From Godward’s playful depiction of a cat-owner bond to Paton’s cat portrait, there’s so much to deduce.

Analysts spend years to deduce emotions, setting, colors, etc. from paintings. You too can get a gorgeous piece of a cat from, and explore its fine details while it ornaments your home.

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Bizzimummy 🧚‍♀️
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