[ART] The Cat Throughout the History of Art 🎨 🐈
The cat has accompanied mankind from ancient civilizations to today's digital world, and has of course left its paw print in art history as well. Cats throughout the history of art seems mostly to sneak around in the background, or have had the bad habit of ruining the motif. In Édouard Manet's iconic painting Olympia (1863), which primarily shows a naked pale woman stretched out on a bed, and a black maid with a bouquet of flowers in the background, a black cat has just jumped up on the foot of the bed, in the lower right corner of the painting. It's almost as if Manet had arranged the perfect picture, but just as he is going to depict the subject, a cat suddenly jumps into the picture without the artist noticing it. If you haven't studied the picture in detail, there's a great chance you've never even noticed it.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, it was in style to paint still lifes consisting of arrangements of fruit, bread, meat and fish. Having a cat in the studio while attempting to depict such careful arrangements I assume would prove difficult, or even disastrous. In one of Frans Snyder's still lifes from 1620, we see a cat sneaking into the picture, trying to grab a fowl from a table abundantly set with various delicacies. In the Dutch 17th-century painter Clara Peeter's still life with carp in a ceramic colander, a cat has jumped up on the table to burry its claws in a little fish there.
The fact that the cat is appearing more and more in paintings from the 17th century is due to the reason that it was a common house pet during this time, which humans acquired for practical reasons, namely to keep after the disease spreading mice and rats that could cause great damage to food and property. Cats are therefore found in both farmhouse interiors and the bedrooms of the upper class. Children together with cats have been abundantly depicted throughout the history. Judith Leyster portrayed two mischievous children holding a kitten in 1629. A few hundred years later, Pierre Bonnard made a painting depicting a little girl with red bows, petting a cat at the dining table. Even Paul Gauguin managed to find a girl with a cat, in remote Tahiti. In the painting Woman with two children (1901) we see a girl carrying a cat in her arms.
Although the cat appears in many places throughout the history of art, it often appears on the periphery or as something passive that you cuddle with while being portrayed. Still, if I were a cat, I would be more proud of gracing the paintings of Dutch masters (if a bit sidelined), than being laughed at in Lolcat memes and videos of today's modern culture.