I have a new cat named Zeb. My old cat Pandora was a contemplative studio buddy. Zeb is a little wild. I think painters like cats because they are low-maintenance, not requiring one to drag themselves away from the easel to walk them, and non-critical in general, except of the state of their litter boxes.
Klimt famously liked his kitties and his models. Turner had up to 30 cats in his studio. They were his houskeeper’s, but still there.
“Visitors to Harley Street would have made an appointment, knocked on the door and been reluctantly admitted by the alarming figure of the housekeeper, who had a skin disease which meant her entire head was bandaged apart from her eyes. She also collected Manx cats, and up to 30 are believed to have had the run of the house. The exhibition also has objects from the house and library, including a sheet of drawings for a lecture on perspectives, covered in little black paw prints.
Turner permitted his housekeeper to block a broken window with an Italian landscape watercolour – a star exhibit at the recent Academy exhibition of his major watercolours – and to use an early canvas of the Thames foreshore as a cat flap.”
Mark Twain saw this painting and did quite a review on it. It seems some of Turner’s cats pussy-footed into the writing.
“A Boston newspaper reporter went and took a look at the Slave Ship floundering about in that fierce conflagration of reds and yellows, and said it reminded him of a tortoise-shell cat having a fit in a platter of tomatoes.”
Here’s me and the Zeb. Tell me about your art cat.
I’m having a show in the Santa Rosa Symphony offices, with a reception on Thursday, April 4, 5 to 6:30. It’s at 50 Santa Rosa Ave., 4th floor– detailed invite here. Do drop by if you can… there are over 20 paintings on display.
Read on if you want to see more of what Mark Twain said about Mr. Turner’s painting. It’s funny and cynical. I think it could easily translate to later critical reactions to early Abstract Expressionism and other non-realistic art forms. Classic Twain: “last year, when I was ignorant.”
“What a red rag is to a bull, Turner’s “Slave Ship” was to me, before I studied art. Mr. Ruskin is educated in art up to a point where that picture throws him into as mad an ecstasy of pleasure as it used to throw me into one of rage, last year, when I was ignorant. His cultivation enables him—and me, now—to see water in that glaring yellow mud, and natural effects in those lurid explosions of mixed smoke and flame, and crimson sunset glories; it reconciles him — and me, now — to the floating of iron cable-chains and other unfloatable things; it reconciles us to fishes swimming around on top of the mud — I mean the water. The most of the picture is a manifest impossibility — that is to say, a lie; and only rigid cultivation can enable a man to find truth in a lie. But it enabled Mr. Ruskin to do it, and it has enabled me to do it, and I am thankful for it. A Boston newspaper reporter went and took a look at the Slave Ship floundering about in that fierce conflagration of reds and yellows, and said it reminded him of a tortoise-shell cat having a fit in a platter of tomatoes. In my then uneducated state, that went home to my non-cultivation, and I thought here is a man with an unobstructed eye. Mr. Ruskin would have said: This person is an ass. That is what I would say, now.”