Sunday, July 1, 2012

Cats in Art: Fairest of Them All (Paton)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I am using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.

I've discovered several other cat paintings by Paton, so the month of Sundays in July will be devoted entirely to him.

Image credit artnet galleries, here [click to enlarge].  Who's the Fairest of Them All?, Frank Paton, 1883, oil on canvas, 24" x 20", private collection. And, as it so happens, the original is actually for sale as you read this, here.

Zuffi's analysis:
This charming painting by Paton bears witness to the proliferation of images of cats--some clumsy and verging on caricature--during the second half of the 19th century.
Not that I want to rain on this painting's parade--because I happen to love it--but I must quibble with the physics, or more properly, with the optics depicted here.  It's a simple convention often used in films and TV, and here in this painting: the subject is shown looking at a mirror such that we see the reflected image.
But think about it: what the subject would actually be seeing is not their reflection but rather the reflection of the detached observer.  In this kitty's case, it would be Frank Paton as he paints.  In film or TV, it would be the camera.  In other words, if the camera "sees" the subject, then the subject sees the camera.  It's a two-way street, simple optics.  Angle of incidence equals angle of reflection and all that stuff.

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