Art Modeling Cats

So I had a little modeling company the other night while posing for my friend Bruce in his studio – his adorable smoky grey cat Ika 🙂 When Bruce has a model over, Ika (pronouned “EE-ka”) wanders into the studio seeking attention. She meows, jumps up, and investigates the naked person on the platform. It’s really funny. I even Tweeted about it. Cats are curious by nature, of course, and Ika wasn’t holding back on Thursday night. She treated me to some luxurious rubbing, nuzzling, and inquisitive staring. It was a very sweet display of affection and I enjoyed it even though I was trying to hold still for Bruce. I generally kept my composure, although a noticeable smile formed on my face as I felt the gentle nudges on my back, soft cat hair against my bare skin, and soothing purring vibrations. By the way, Ika and I are now having a torrid love affair 😆

Cats make wonderful art subjects mainly because they are fairly easy to draw due to their characteristic lines and shapes: small head, triangle ears, curvy spine, big eyes. Heck even a non-artist like me can capture the basic look of a cat. In terms of color, cats offer an amazing variety: red tabbies, calicos, touches of white, patches of black, light grey, charcoal grey, golds, browns, solids, stripes, you name it. Artists throughout history have depicted cats for their visual appeal and it’s easy to see why.

What I love most about cats is their charisma. Cats are seductive. They possess a kind of magnetism you don’t see in many other animals. They move elegantly, balance effortlessly, and have a palpable sense of self. They also have lightning-fast reflexes which are very impressive. Cats walk into a room like they own the place, assert their territory, and fully expect to be worshipped. At the same time, they expect boundaries to be respected. Have you ever had a cat engage with you for play and then you go too far? They give you a confrontational look like, “Whoa, whoa, easy there. Back off, buddy. Remember, I call the shots here!”. And they will saunter away once they’ve had enough of you. Just try to mess with a cat’s tail and you will be promptly admonished. But when a cat has its guard down, as Ika did the other night, they are warm, lovable, and responsive. Few things in life feel as nice as a cat affectionately nuzzling you.

In this painting The Bridge by Carl Larsson he brings together elements of landscape, perspective, and a figure. And yet the black cat, looking back into the distance, seems to stand out as the star. Its presence almost upstages the woman in orange. A beautiful painting overall.

Renoir has never been one of my favorite painters, but he did a fine job in this portrait of Julie Manet with a cat. Julie Manet was the daughter of Berthe Morisot and Eugene Manet, brother of Edouard Manet. Renoir seems to have given more expression to the cat’s face than to Julie’s:

Another young girl with a cat, this one by Antoine Jean Bail. Good action and personality in this one, although the cat seems less than amused by the feather teasing. He looks pissed!

German Expressionist Franz Marc appreciated the artistic appeal of cats. He gave feline-like attributes to the figure here in Girl With a Cat II from 1912:

A large, roughneck cat grabs for the fish in The Cook and the Cat, by Theodule Augustine Ribot, 19th century French painter. That cat is clearly a ruffian and even the cook won’t mess with it:

Giovanni Boldini used watercolor for this loose, effective piece A Lady with a Cat. I like the strokes and the color scheme:

I’ve noticed that women are more often posed with cats than men. I wonder why? Maybe because cats prefer to sit on our laps 😉 This black cat looks nice and cozy on this ballerina’s tutu. The painting, by Pierre Carrier-Belleuse, is appropriately titled Ballerina with a Black Cat:

There are few female painters of note from the 17th century Dutch period, unfortunately. Judith Leyster was one. In this painting by her, A Boy and a Girl with a Cat and Eel, the expression of the cat is pretty hilarious. It’s thinking, “What the hell am I doing here with these wackos?”.

For this post I used only works of cats with people, rather than cats alone. But cat imagery is abundant in the art world, and they can be found both as main subjects and supporting players. Bruce did not include Ika in his drawings the other night, as he is exclusively a figure man. But I didn’t mind one bit having her companionship on the modeling platform, whisker tickles and all 🙂

10 thoughts on “Art Modeling Cats

  1. Andrew says:

    I had a similar experience when I was posing privately for an artist. His cat decided to pose with me. I did this pose for 3 3-hour sessions and the cat would always sleep in the same spot, by my right foot. The artist thought about including the cat in the painting, but ultimately decided not to. This is the painting.
    http://home.earthlink.net/~artmodelandrew/avery.htm

  2. Jennifer says:

    What a lovely cat story! As a fellow cat lover (gingers are my big favourite), I loved the variety of cat paintings that then followed your modelling story. Thinking of you at the moment being embattled by Hurricane Irene and hope your own cats are okay.

    Take care and stay safe

    Jennifer

    • artmodel says:

      Jennifer,

      There are so many cat images in art, I had to narrow it down! Glad you liked my selections.

      Yes, my cats are perfectly fine. They are ferals who live outside, as you probably know, but they have access into my garage through a broken section of the roof. I purposely don’t fix it because the cats use it for shelter entry! So I went outside this morning and called for them. Sure enough, within minutes, they emerged looking a bit bewildered and bedraggled. But I gave them a hearty dish of food which they scarfed down. Then they were back to normal, doing thorough property inspections in the aftermath of Irene, exploring, sniffing, etc, wondering what the hell happened with all that wind and rain. They’re so smart, funny, and adorable 🙂

      Thanks for your comments!

      Claudia

  3. alanborky says:

    On a previous blog of yours, I commented on how intelligent your legs looked, and speculated on the sort of trouble they might’ve gotten you into, (in your early school days, that is).

    Now if ever there was a critter that exemplified the idea each body part’s a critter unto itself, with its own form of intelligence, it’s the cat – even as its eye’s been caught by a bird, one paw can be playing with a ball of wool, another tantalising a bug with the promise of freedom only to immediately rescind it, while all the time its tail follows you round the room with a half insolent expression on its ‘face’, leaving you in little doubt it holds you in contempt for not having returned from the supermarket with its favourite food, even though you haven’t gotten it out the bag yet!

    My favourite’s Larsson’s black kitten – he captures the moment it’s about to start sinuously rocking from side to side, just before it launches itself at its out of focus prey, only to chicken out in mid air and take a swipe at an imaginary leaf.

    • artmodel says:

      alanborky,

      You write these really interesting and original comments and I never know how to respond to them! They’re great! And they need no further elaboration from me.

      Always a pleasure to read, thank you 🙂

      Claudia

  4. violinhunter says:

    Dearest young lady, You must love to write – you put so much thought into it and it seems to just flow from your pen (keyboard.) I am so happy to have found your blog. You know it is not really a blog – it is much more like a book.

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