Sunday, September 8, 2013

Cats in Art: Common American Wild-Cat (Audubon)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. Currently I'm turning for a couple weeks to John James Audubon. 

Image credit The Philadelphia Print Shop, here, Common American Wild-Cat, John James Audubon.

Why is Audubon important?  Per Wikipedia:

John James Audubon (Jean-Jacques Audubon) (April 26, 1785 – January 27, 1851) was a French-American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter. He was notable for his expansive studies to document all types of American birds and for his detailed illustrations that depicted the birds in their natural habitats. His major work, a color-plate book entitled The Birds of America (1827–1839), is considered one of the finest ornithological works ever completed.

What many folks don't know is that Audubon also set out to depict all North American quadrupeds (primarily four-footed mammals). His three-volume The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, published in 1845, contained this illustration.

Although much more famous for his bird art, Audubon managed to do a couple of kitties as well.  The cat above (assumed to be what we call today the Bobcat) looks almost psychotic in its face, and the remainder of the animal seems to be covered with curious scripts and faces.  All in all, it's an odd painting.

I once had the great fortune on a trail run near Monterey, CA, of encountering a juvenile bobcat, and it was one of the most memorable wildlife experiences of my life: grace, power, stealth.  So for me, Audubon's print above is a pretty disquieting rendering of a bobcat.


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