Every artist needs a muse, and every cat needs a human! From Dalí’s ocelot to Warhol’s siamese, the adoration of our favorite artists for cats cannot remain unnoticed. The cat is a solitary and independent creature with territorial and predatory traits. Felines have minimal tolerance for human agendas and the personality quirks we seek to impose upon them. It should come as no surprise that artists have always found a great affinity for them. “Cat people” are more neurotic, less agreeable, and more introverted than dog lovers, but also display more openness.
Their enigmatic allure has fascinated artists for centuries, transforming them into omnipotent idols. Going back to Ancient Egypt, cats were considered as divine. Since then, Da Vinci wrote “the smallest feline is a masterpiece” in his Study of Cat Movement and Position. At one time, Warhol owned twenty five cats in his Upper East Side townhouse! Dali’s ocelot was treated to the finest life had to offer, accompanying the artist to the top of the Eiffel Tower and a fancy Manhattan restaurant. Austrian symbolist Gustav Klimt’s studio was always filled with women and cats! In 1982, Jean-Michel Basquiat sat to have his favorite portrait taken in the studio of photographer James Van Der Zee, with the appearance of a sulky cat. Cats were as much of a part of Picasso’s life as the women he obsessively rendered, appearing in paintings and drawings throughout his entire life. Matisse kept several cats during his lifetime, which kept him company until the end when he was painting from his bed and completed the Chapel of Rosary, his masterpiece.
The list can go on about these fascinating creatures and their relationship with our artists. It looks like the love was mutual!
Credit: “Artists and their cats” by Alison Nastasi