Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cats in Art: Study of a Cat (Valadon)

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

This is part 1 of 7 of a multiweek study of the cat art of Suzanne Valadon.  A French painter (1865-1838), she had quite the interesting life (summarized from Wikipedia):

Suzanne Valadon became a circus acrobat at the age of fifteen, but a year later, a fall from a trapeze ended that career. In Paris, she pursued her interest in art, first working as a model for artists, observing and learning their techniques, before becoming a noted painter herself. She modelled for Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (who gave her painting lessons) and Pierre-Auguste Renoir....Valadon frequented the bars and taverns of Paris along with her fellow painters, and she was Toulouse-Lautrec's subject in his oil painting The Hangover....Valadon painted still lifes, portraits, flowers, and landscapes that are noted for their strong composition and vibrant colors. She was, however, best known for her candid female nudes. A perfectionist, she worked on some of her oil paintings for up to 13 years before showing them....A free spirit, she wore a corsage of carrots, kept a goat at her studio to "eat up her bad drawings", and fed caviar (rather than fish) to her "good Catholic" cats on Fridays....Both an asteroid (6937 Valadon) and a crater on Venus are named in her honor.

Image credit Wikipaintings, Study of a Cat, 1918, Suzanne Valadon, oil on canvas, held in private collection.
Zuffi's sparse comment:
A late 19th and early 20th century painter, Valadon portrays the cat in a plain, linear style that emphasizes the simple ordinariness of the scene.
I really like this cat, just hanging out, not necessarily needing or wanting anything, who appears to be equally ready to be petted, or to get active if the right opportunity presented itself.  This particular feline seems imperturbable and simply happy to be a housecat.  I particularly like the juxtaposition of the arch of the cat's back with the series of arches of the three slats comprising the back of the chair.
The bride commented that it was odd that a cat would even deign to be bothered to pose for a painting.
But the bottom line is that Valadon's simple, even elegant, painting captures so very well the essence of the cat.
By the way, the chair upon which the kitty is perched is very reminiscent of another chair, made famous by Van Gogh.  Or these two chairs, also by Van Gogh.  Except Vincent--in his madness, I suppose--neglected to include any cats in his paintings.

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