Sunday, December 8, 2013

Cats in Art: Still Life With Cats (Beckmann)

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.

By the way, the Internet is a strange and incomplete place. At least 2 sites (here and here) purport to show the complete works of Max Beckmann...yet this great image is NOT among them:

Image credit hereStill Life With Cats, Max Beckmann, 1917, oil on canvas, 25" x 39", held by Gallery Pels-Leuden, Berlin, Germany.

Zuffi's comment:

...unlike the 17th century paintings, which chiefly focus on the cat as a "petty thief" of the pantry, this still life provides an opportunity to observe the placid calm of felines in a tranquil domestic environment, letting them pose for the artist amid the fruits and flowers.  The two cats--one black with white paws and neck, and the other dark gray--have lost their mysterious symbolic meaning.  The ordinaryness of the scene is converyed through a clear-cut composition with its curvilinear forms and strong outlines, revealing a broad and sophisticated range of colors.

I agree with the whole theme of oridinary catness.  Kittys just doing kitty stuff, and by the way, an artist just happens to be on hand to capture the moment.  And I love the composition of cats, flowers and colors that Beckmann assembles here, especially the iris in the tall white vase.  And don't you  just love the yellow-eyed cat on the right which appears to have a green vase on its head?

Last, an aside about the artist.  The art site Totally History offers this perspective on Beckmann's work:

When World War 2 broke out, Max Beckmann’s as well as other Expressionists’ paintings were declared to be degenerate by Hitler. In fact his paintings were removed from the galleries by the Nazis and some were displayed as examples of degenerate art in Munich. The Nazi Government referred to Beckmann as a “cultural Bolshevik.”

Thus if Hitler called someone "degenerate" then I gotta go with the theory that this someone was actually, well, NOT degenerate.

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