Sunday, June 12, 2016

Cats in Art: Still Life of Fish, Oysters and Crayfish with a Cat (Peeters)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art.  Having moved on from Stefano Zuffi's marvelous work, The Cat in ArtI am now using some ideas from Caroline Bugler's equally impressive book, The Cat/3500 Years of the Cat in Art.  

This is the first of two posts featuring some art from Clara Peeters, a Belgian artist from the early 1600s.

Image credit WikimediaStill Life of Fish, Oysters and Crayfish with a Cat, Clara Peeters, 1615, oil on panel, 13" x 19", held in a private collection.

There are several interesting things about this painting.

First, this particular painting is known today as either Still Life of Fish, Oysters and Crayfish with a Cat, or the title really is A Still Life with Carp in a Ceramic Colander, Oysters, Crayfish, Roach and a Cat on the Ledge Beneath.  I opted for the former (shorter) title.

I think that all this confusion harks back to the fact that in 1615, artist Clara Peeters did not write her title of the painting on the back of it.  Thus it was left to later curators and art historians to come up with a descriptive title...some of which were in conflict.

Second, other than the Bugler book and the linked Wikimedia reference (and a similar one from Wikipedia), I could find no other images of this painting...perhaps because it is held in a private collection.

Third, in her book Caroline Bugler refers to this work as Still Life with Fish and Cat.  As it turns out, that title actually refers to a different painting, quite similar to the image above, which I will feature next week (it is held at the National Women's Museum of Art in Washington, DC).

Anyway, back to the Bugler book, where she talks about Peeters' art:

A number [of paintings] show a live cat with fish and other seafood, and this is a typical example, with its assembly of relatively humbler objects and its restricted palette.  Peeters was skilled at rendering texture: here the carp/s slippery skin and the dull gleam of the ceramic colander make an interesting contrast with the cat's soft fur.  The vigilant feline, with its paws on a small fish, has a proprietorial air, its ears turned slightly to listen for an interloper who might whisk away its prize--could that be us, the viewer?

My thoughts?  This painting is bright, alive and vibrant.  The kitty is rendered perfectly--the eyes, the ears, the posture, the attitude.  Here at my Sunday Cats in Art feature, if I said it once, I've said it a hundred times about a hundered different artists: Peeters must have had cats to have been able to render a kitty so perfectly.

[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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