Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cats in Art: Woman With a Cat (Bonnard)

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 2 of 8 of a multiweek study of the cat art of Pierre Bonnard, a French painter (1867-1947). In this series I will feature Bonnard's cat art both before and after this painting, which is one of his better known pieces.

This image is the second of two published by Zuffi, and dates from 1912:

Image credit National Gallery of Australia, Woman With a Cat, Pierre Bonnard, 1912, oil on canvas, 30" x 30", held by Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

Zuffi comments:

The twentieth century boasts, right from its start, a large number of great artists who sincerely loved cats, but perhaps none had as much sensitivity and discretion as Bonnard.  For the French master, a delicate artist who took his cue from Impressionism, which he reinterpreted with lyrical intimacy, the cat is the animal to whom one confides the secrets of the heart: the cat is not a mysterious symbol or an elegant arabesque, nor a slightly disturbing presence, but a tender, discreet companion.  This painting, which in its balanced simplicity is rightly considered one of the painter's masterpieces, offers a subtle psychological interpretation of the relationship between a solitary young woman and a cat that appears at her side like a mute witness to her inner secrets.

Or in the case of one of our cats, a not-so-mute witness.  Ca Beere is a talker, as well as being a "face kitty" (fascinated with your face), and is alone among our felines in liking to have her belly rubbed.

Back to Bonnard--to me this painting is kinda haunting but in a non-threatening way.  I wonder what the girl is thinking, what the cat is thinking, what their lives were like, and what is really happening in this image.  The girl is looking straight out at the viewer, but the cat seems to be studying something off to its left.

The National Gallery of Australia site points out the usage of both circular and angular lines, and comments that the

...angle of the cat’s body, straightened foreleg and flattened ears suggests an animation lacking in the stillness of the woman’s body. Her slight lean towards the table and her steadying hand suggest she is waiting for something to happen.

So I guess that Bonnard succeeded in creating a lasting image that meaningfully persists in our world a hundred years later.


No comments:

Post a Comment