Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cats in Art: Still Life With Putto and Rabbit (Kokoschka)

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 the second post on Oskar Kokoschka, who last week and this showed us some disturbing cats:

Image credit ALMA, hereStill Life With Putto and Rabbit, Oskar Kokoschka, 1914, oil on canvas, size and owner unspecified.
The ALMA site offers the following analysis of this painting, at a time when the artist was reeling from his lover Alma's recent abortion.
In encoded form, Kokoschka attempted to get close to this event: in a mysterious, gloomy landscape, there sits in the foreground a cat, poised ready to pounce. Its head is turned back towards a rabbit sitting behind it, and with its gaze it has the little animal completely under its spell. Aside from this scene, a tiny male child cowers. The similarity between the portrait of the cat and Alma has repeatedly been raised. The identification with the child not carried to term makes the gestures which stress suffering and the oppressive power of the tree trunk become emblems of death. Alma has turned away from him, and her admonishing glance is intended solely for the rabbit. Thus, Still Life with Putto and Rabbit, bathed in an apocalyptic mood, already heralds the imminent end of the relationship.
So, is the aborted boy referred to as "Putto," or is that the name of the cat, or is it an endearing name for Alma?
Regardless, if the kitty is that of Oskar and Alma rather than just an allegorical symbol, I'd be questioning the wisdom of cat ownership.  To me, the cat looks almost malignant, with an evil smile of control and domination, like "I can take you out any time I feel like it." 
All in all, quite a disturbing image.

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