Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cats in Art: Woman With a Cat (Leger)

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 Metropolitan Museum of Art, Woman With a Cat, Fernand Leger, 1921, oil on canvas, 56" x 35", held by Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Zuffi tells us that other artists of the period described Leger's style as a "tubist," that is, a reconstruction of forms based on the cylinder.  It's hard to describe, but if you scroll through a chronological series of Leger's work--such as this one at WikiArt--the theme comes through loud and clear.  It's an interesting approach, and while art appreciation is an individual thing, this type of work happens to appeal to my senses.

I guess one of the appeals of the painting above is the black kitty.  We currently have a black cat we call Ca Beere, a name that derived from Mister Tristan's (then a 3 year old human being, not the blog) inability to pronounce the cat's previous appellation.  So Ca Beere she became, and to me she is the sweetest kitty in the world.

Another interesting feature of the painting is the woman's head: the straight black skater's  hair, the lack of a real face. But posed with a cat, and a book: what's not to like?

My now well-worn copy of The Cat in Art by Stefano Zuffi, the original prompting for my recurring Sunday feature that has now persisted here for several years, shows a Fernand Leger painting called Woman With a Cat...only it's not this one.  Here it is:

Image credit Stefano Zuffi in The Cat in Art, pg 306-07, Woman With a Cat, Fernand Leger, 1955, oil on canvas, 25" x 36", held in a private collection.

It's 30+ years later in Leger's career, a 1955 image with the same title, but as I have found previously with researching cats in art, finding an on-line image of a particular painting can be difficult or even impossible, particularly if the painting is obscure or held in a private collection.  We think of the Internet as a vast, complete resource, but at times it yields nothing and we feel cheated somehow.  "Why can't I find it?" I sometimes think...then I remember that somewhere, sometime, an actual human had to input EVERY piece of information that appears on the net.

So while the 1921 image at the top is very well known, the second image--from 1955--that Zuffi featured is not.  Which is one of the cool things about Zuffi's book--he occasionally tosses in an image that nobody else seems to know about.

Since in my series Cats in Art I am an inputter of data, so to speak, I am rather forgiving when I can't find something that nobody, so far, has been motivated to upload.

So let me end with Zuffi's comment.  Bolding is mine: 

Perhaps Leger's fundamental stylistic trait [tubism] does not appear in full in this painting, but certainly the work displays a considerable simplification of volumes and surfaces, and the exclusive use of primary colors (with only the addition of green).  The indispensable companion for a placid, bourgeois afternoon spent with a good book is, once again, our friend the cat.

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