Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cats in Art: Dora Maar au Chat (Picasso)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I am using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.  This is the fourth of several posts on the cat art of Pablo Picasso.

Image credit Totally History.   Dora Maar au Chat (Dora Maar With Cat), Pablo Picasso, 1941, oil on canvas, 50" x 37", held in a private collection.

Per the website:

The painting itself is not excessively large, measuring 50.5” by 37.5″ and shows Dora Maher in a three-quarter length pose, sitting regally in a wooden chair. There is a small black cat on her shoulders which some have described as looking like a combination of menacing and amusing. Picasso has used faceted planes to depict her body and has also used brushstrokes which have been layered richly, in order to project a sculptured quality. He has also used brilliant colors as well as thick and complicated patterns on her dress. The effect is powerful, as is the setting which is described as both dramatic, yet simple.

Dora Maar au Chat by Pablo Picasso has been described as one of the least hostile portraits of Maar, which seems to have been the norm, and this particular portrait has been depicted as one of Picasso’s most brilliant and provocative portraits of his weeping woman. The presence a cat in the same painting presents an allusion to the timeless combination of sexual aggression and feminine wiles. Picasso once described his lover’s temperament in terms of an Afghan cat, which is a significant illusory comment, considering the nature of their relationship. 

In keeping with the reference to cats, it should be noted that Picasso has painted long fingers and long nails into the portrait and this closely resembles the reportedly well-manicured nails and hands that Maar was known to have. In fact, her hands were said to be her most distinctive and beautiful features, however Picasso has painted them in such a way as to depict them as possessing certain violence, like a cat’s claws. 

This is a very interesting painting, in that the real kitty is quite tiny--and only a mere silhouette on the woman's right shoulder--while the real woman, Dora Maar, is rendered in a distinctly cat-like manner.  

Gary note: With my Cats in Arts posts, I encourage you to scope out the art appreciation site Artsy (I have no financial interest in the site, I just like it), where you can explore many aspects of the world of art.  You'll certainly be entertained and enlightened!

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