Sunday, May 4, 2014

Cats in Art: Cat and Bird (Klee)

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.

Image credit Wikipaintings, hereCat and Bird (Katze und Vogel), Paul Klee, 1928, oil and ink on gessoed canvas, mounted on wood, 15" x 21", held Museum of Modern Art, New York City.  

Zuffi observes, 

Klee's magnificent cat holds its prey on its head!  It is its idee fixe, its obsession: to seize food in order to survive.  With a single ink line, the major Swiss artist has succeeded in capturing the feline lust for succulent prey, capable of reawakening the cat's ancestral and never-suppressed hunter's instincts.  The highly sophisticated range of colors--based on emerald green, ochre, and fuchsia--accentuates, especially in the fixed, concentrated stare and menacing dilated pupils, the sensation of ambush about to happen.  This picture belongs to a particularly rich phase in the art of Klee, who reanimates the motif of childhood creativity with expressiveness and an extraordinary balance of colors.

I agree totally with Zuffi here--the choice and rendering of colors are indeed extraordinary. To me, the bird is really a thought balloon, as though the cat is a cartoon image.  And he captures perfectly the essence of catness: focus, suppressed wildness, instincts ready to emerge.

By the way, I read on the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) web site that this painting is not currently on view.  What the hell!?!?  The only acceptable reason for that would be if the piece is undergoing conservation, not that they have too many paintings and this one had to be cycled to the shelves for awhile.

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