Everybody want to be a cat”
Kitty + Arts = MeowLove4Ever
Cats were always part of our collective representations, subjects or objects of artists. It is true that there were transformations during the years, and each kitty represents a certain time of history and talks about cultures.
Starting from the huge Divine statues of the Egyptians, to hardly recognized cubic cats, “would you like to see my pussy?”-cats and elitist opera-cats, or cartoon cats, to pixelated cats with record sales on crypto markets, it seems that felines always have been close to us and reflect our times.
From Gods to Surviving Inquisitions, and the Cat Renaissance. From Can-Can Parties to Famous Paintings and Digital Assets.
Bare with us, we will depict the famous Arty Life of Kitties + we give some extra perks:
Most famous cats
Most rich cats
Meow Artsy cats
Egyptians portrayed cats in the most Divine way. Cats were considered family members, and as such mummified, mourned, and buried properly.
Egyptians Cats were considered sacred, those killing them faced the death penalty. Cats were portrayed as gods and goddesses and appear in tomb decorations, but also in carvings and paintings.
And from Egypt, cats came to Europe.
Firstly considered exotic and “luxurious” animals, but in the era of the Roman emperors, they were used for practical purposes: catching rodents.
Maybe the most critical period for cats was during the Inquisitions when they were totally disgraced. As the Church declared war on the non-believers, artists would depict only symbolic religious themes, and animals (with rare exceptions) almost never appeared in paintings.
And in the late Middle Ages and even early Renaissance, cats became suspicious.
BLACK CAT meant that the devil often disguised as a black cat, and they appeared alongside witches or traitors such as Juda, or got associated with lust and the world’s oldest profession.
But all these will change with the departure from religious superstitions, and slowly cats enter people’s hearts and homes.
Maybe the first who declared himself in Cat’s favor was Leonardo da Vinci when the felines became the object of scientific research, the master filling the pages of his album with sketches of these animals washing, playing, or hunting mice and birds. (Leonardo da Vinci Sketch cats, dragons, and other animals)
Following his footsteps, other great artists started to study cats, and since then artists keep painting felines.
Maybe the record cats on a canvas is made by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798−1861) and his woodcut print Cats Suggested As The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō are also a stark example of that.
And this is just one step, because Japan really developed an entire culture around cats, with magical shapeshifters BAKENEKO (bakeneko 化け猫, “changed cat”) to the horrendous demonic corpse-eaters (KASHA – 火車, lit. “burning chariot” or “burning barouche” or 化車, “changed wheel”), ending up in contemporary life with Hello Kitty (ハロー・キティ) created by Yuko Shimizu and all the new-tech wearable trends. (for an entire review of Japan’s CAT Culture, see Smithsonian magazine) .
“Ume no Haru Gojūsantsugi” (梅初春五十三駅) by Utagawa Kuniyoshi.
Lona, Sophia, Inga, Olga, and Gertrude Barrison were really sisters. The eldest of the sisters, Lona Barrison, was the first to enter the stage, and later the others joined her.
They changed their name to Bareisen in the English style, becoming the Barrison Sisters, but they were also listed in the posters as “sin girls” for the grivois content of their performances.
The Danish-born sisters were quite…inventive, and popularized the cats in 1890, through their most famous act “Would you like to see my pussy?”. At the end of the song, when the audience was ‘energized’, they were pulling up their skirts to reveal cute live little kittens, strapped to their groins.
And then in France, felines were really famous. Be it tea houses, can-cans, felines loved everything from cabaret flyers, can-cans or tea house poster advertising.
Remember, Le Chat Noir, right? The poster done by Théophile Steinlen, an Art Nouveau painter and printmaker, is both one of the most famous cat pictures and advertisements from history.
Le Chat Noir was a popular bohemian entertainment place from Montmartre, that is widely thought to be the first modern cabaret club.
While the club is long gone, the poster remained iconic for 19th-century Paris – its golden era and the venue that was a meeting place for artists, and partly a musical, creative platform. The cabaret published a weekly with the same name, which published not only news from the life of the “Black Cat”, but also many literary works, political satire and poetry.
Today, anyone can buy a reproduction with the image of the “Black Cat”.
England had also its cat illustrator and artist – Louis Wain who created a real feline society and the feline world, sometimes depicted in psychedelic colors. (more you can find in Cute Cats and Psychedelia: The Tragic Life of Louis Wain)
In this world, cats wine and dine, grin and wink, dress up, one of the most famous works is The Bachelor Party. “Back then, and now too, the English public were prepared to laugh at themselves more easily when presented with comic social disorder through animals.”, suggests Chris Beetles, a London-based art dealer and leading Wain authority. (more info in Artsy article wrote by Alice Bucknell )
It is said that his obsession with cats was because of a mental disorder (schizophrenia) and made most of his drawing while in the asylum. Louis became one of the most renowned leading feline experts and was elected President of the National Feline Club.
For Marc Chagall who experienced the golden era from Paris, cats were companions of the people portrayed by the artist, be they poets, musicians or women and emphasized the unreality of his paintings. Cats were the main characters in many canvases.
Cats and Cubism marriage turned out to be unsettling – Picasso’s Cat Devouring A Bird portrays the cat as a hunter, devouring its foe.
It is said that great art requires sacrifices, and cats felt it too. Those cats were selected by Salvador Dali and photographer Philippe Halsmann for a series of surreal photographs.
There were necessary, 28 attempts to get the final photo, so 28 times the cats had to be catapulted through the air.
Literature also created some famous cats, such as Cheshire from L. Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the superior cat with a mysterious smile and often appears separate from the head and in the most unexpected places.
The Behemoth Cat from M. Bulgakov’s novel The Master and Margarita, which is rather a demon of carnal desires, enclosed in the body of a “harmless” shaggy monster.
One of the most mystical cats, the black cat from the story of the same name by the master of surrealism Edgar Alan Poe. The black cat in the story suffers truly hellish torments from its sadistic master. And when he, in a drunken stupor, nevertheless kills a pet, he comes to him from the other world without one eye, because retribution in a crime is inevitable.
While the studio animation created cats for adults and kids such as the famous AristoCats – that made us all agree that “Everybody wants to be a Cat”.
The romantic comedy was the last film approved personally by Walt Disney, and it became an instant hit. Who does not love the cute three cats raised by a single cat-mother, who falls for an alley-cat. Garfield is another beloved character that was born in an Italian restaurant, loved food and hated Mondays. And nobody can forget, Tom the only cat in the world, always outwitted by a small mouse, Jerry.
Few years forward, in the age of social media and the internet, kitties are everywhere. And studios like Disney and Pixar gave a hint to the culture.
The internet-savvy generation updated the kitties. CryptoKitties is the new hit! CryptoKitties is a blockchain game on Ethereum developed by Canadian studio Dapper Labs that allows players to purchase, collect, breed and sell virtual cats.
Shortly after their launch in 2017, people have spent over +1M to buy virtual cats.(Acc to Techcrunch)
And recently during the NFTs boom, another famous kitty emerged: Nyan Cat, created by Chris Torres, sold for $561,000 on the Foundation platform. (More info in Techvangart)
Also, back in 2017, a VR creator thought cats were bringing luck.
Chocolate transforms your hands into cannons that spray cute, colorful chrome kittens onto a circle of people performing a ritualistic dance just for you, their robot god. (info about movie on Sundance)unluckily for him, the media did not really get it what is with the cats, campaign and god/chief/cat – ( THEVERGE article made by By Adi Robertson)
And as technology progresses, we will see what kind of new-cats can the intersection of art and tech RE-imagine.
The Purr-fect Arty -Kitty book recommendations
Artful Cats – Mary Savig, curator of manuscripts, Mary Savig, reviewed Smithsonian’s vaults and published a compendium of cat images (link)
Cats Rock: Felines in Contemporary Art and Pop Culture – Elizabeth Daley (More than 350 illustrated pages, it is a collection of contemporary creations examining our obsessive relationship with our companions). (Amazon Link)
For all dogs lover, we recommend the book of Burton Silver and illustrator Heather Busch: Why Paint Cats: The Ethics of Feline Aesthetics. The humorous book, touches at the arts industries + society’s obsession with kitties. Recommended for cat-lovers as well, as the creativity of artist went really wild for depicting cats. (more info )
Cat Cabinet: If you really want to see all cats in a single place, you should try the Cat Cabinet https://www.kattenkabinet.nl/. It is based in Amsterdam, in a grand 17th-century canal house (and a location for the film Ocean’s 12). It’s a veritable temple to the feline form, shown in all forms as majestic, fluffy, cute, dainty or capricious.
Not able to visit a museum? VR is here! The Cat Cabinet can be viewed also online.
And there is also another virtual exhibitions, CATS IN HISTORY
Collecting Digital Cats – Digital Arts is growing, and we are witnessing a. Ok, so now, you missed the Nyan Cat , but start having one. Even if you own, one single 1 NFT, start with a kitty :P. Might worth a lot in few year – you see, society is obsessed with them.
Cats with Careers : If you think that only artists, poets, and creative technologist portray cats, you are wrong. Kitties are trying to make their way in other aspect of the professional life. Even if these careers are not well-documented and are rare, we have some examples worth mentioning.
Cats in Space Russian have sent a dog n the 60s, Laika, but French scientists send a cat called Felicette in space in 1963, as such becoming the first cat in space. So, the question remains: in the race for space, the next cat will be sent on Moon, Mars, or….?
Cats in Politics Cats have a political career, too. Well, at least in Britain. Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office is the title of the official resident cat of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at 10 Downing Street. There has been a resident cat in the English government employed as a mouser and pet since the 1500s, although modern records date only to the 1920s. The current Chief Mouser is Larry, named in 2011, and has served David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson.
Tommaso was left a massive $13 million inheritance by his owner in 2011 – and it is a true Cat-Cinderella story, as Tomasso was a stray cat. (The Guardian)
Choupette– Karl Lagerfeld’s spoiled kitty has become super-rich, after Lagerfeld left her a great deal of money – $195 million. Here, it is worth mentioning that Choupette had a hard won little fortune – $3 million- from modelling jobs. (link to CNBC)Living a fashionista life-style, she was a true muse, inspiring a handbag collection and being featured in photoshoots.
“Cats of the Cardinal” – In the 18 century, spoiled cats walked lavishly in the salon of Noble houses. And Cardinal Richelieu was no exception. He kept dozens of cats and left money in his will to make sure they would be taken care of after his death.
Start doing something, anything with cats.
All great artists had a cat to show to the people.
Don’t be intimidated by a non-hipsterish friend telling you the kitties were a Millennial-social media mania.
We just proved to you that it was not, whatever happens, sooner or later, cats find a way to return to peoples’ hearts!
And as proved till today, the digital-generation loves cats too!