Inky Illustrations of Cats

There are many ways of rendering cats in illustration. By letting ink run into the paper, cats can look beautifully soft and furry.

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) ink blot cats by Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol (1928-1987) ink blot cats by Andy Warhol
Clare Turlay Newberry (American, 1903-1970) cat kittens
Clare Turlay Newberry (American, 1903-1970)
Louis Icart, (1880-1950) detail from an etching, c. 1925
Louis Icart, (1880-1950) detail from an etching, c. 1925
Tsuguharu Foujita (Japanese-French, 1886-1968) from Book of Cats, 1930
Tsuguharu Foujita (Japanese-French, 1886-1968) from Book of Cats, 1930
Hannes Kilian - Cat Nero in the Snow, 1953
Hannes Kilian – Cat Nero in the Snow, 1953
Endre Penovac Serbian artist cat
Endre Penovac Serbian artist
Marjorie L. Cooper (American, 1910-1999), pen name Elizabeth Webbe, An illustration from the book 'The Kitten Twins' 1960
Marjorie L. Cooper (American, 1910-1999), pen name Elizabeth Webbe, An illustration from the book ‘The Kitten Twins’ written by Helen Wing 1960
Clare Turlay Newberry (American,1903-1970) - April’s Kittens cat
Clare Turlay Newberry (American, 1903-1970) – April’s Kittens cat
Clare Turlay Newberry (1903-1970), c. 1937 cat
Clare Turlay Newberry (1903-1970), c. 1937

Women and Cats in Art

There is a strong link between women, girls and cats. In fiction, for instance, women are frequently described as cats (and also as birds).

Then there’s the witch link between women and cats, who are thought to be witches’ familiars. During the witch craze, a small proportion of men were also tried for witchcraft, but the modern witch archetype is an old woman who sometimes transmogrifies into a beautiful young woman in order to trick men or to test them.

Then there’s the modern dismissive archetype of the ‘crazy cat lady’, for which there is no male counterpart.

Below are some artworks celebrating the relationship between women, girls and their cats.

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite (1888-1960)
Ida Rentoul Outhwaite (1888-1960)
We Have Always Lived In The Castle girl with cat
We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson
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Balinese, Birman, Burmese and Siamese Cats In Art

Agnes Tait (American, 1894-1981), Sailor Cats, 1941
Agnes Tait (American, 1894-1981), Sailor Cats, 1941
C.F. Tunnicliffe watercolor - Siamese cat on a branch in blossom
CHARLES FREDERICK TUNNICLIFFE R.A. (BRITISH, 1901-1979)– Siamese cat on a branch in blossom
CHARLES FREDERICK TUNNICLIFFE R.A. (BRITISH, 1901-1979) Siamese cat
There is Nothing Like a Cat illustrated by Rosalind Welcher, 1968
There is Nothing Like a Cat illustrated by Rosalind Welcher, 1968

Fish Bowls In Art

George Dunlop Leslie - The Goldfish Seller

The fishbowl is a common symbol of surveillance, as is a glass house. For house cats, the fish bowl is a miniature version of the pond or lake — domestic version.

Blanchie and the Goldfish from the book Clever Cats a Chimney Corner Series unknown author and illustrator, published by Peter G. Thomson, Cincinatti, Ohio, 1885
Blanchie and the Goldfish from the book Clever Cats a Chimney Corner Series unknown author and illustrator, published by Peter G. Thomson, Cincinatti, Ohio, 1885
by Gilbert Wilkinson cat goldfish
by Gilbert Wilkinson
Anne Anderson and Alan Wright husband and wife illustrators, from The Cuddly Kitty and the Busy Bunny by Clara G Dennis 1927 goldfish
Anne Anderson and Alan Wright husband and wife illustrators, from The Cuddly Kitty and the Busy Bunny by Clara G Dennis 1927
Dutch poster for Philips Tv, 1951 fish
Dutch poster for Philips TV, 1951
Shukan Shincho cover by Rokuro Taniuchi 1979
Shukan Shincho cover by Rokuro Taniuchi 1979
Illustration by Carlo Bisi, 1932
Illustration by Carlo Bisi, 1932
French fashion illustrations c.1920s George Barbier
French fashion illustrations c.1920s George Barbier
Erte 1977 fishbowl
Erte 1977 fishbowl
Amy Millicent Sowerby (1878-1967) fish bowl
Amy Millicent Sowerby (1878-1967)
Cat and Bowl of Goldfish, 1933 by Ohara Koson (Shoson) (1877 - 1945)
Cat and Bowl of Goldfish, 1933 by Ohara Koson (Shoson) (1877 – 1945)
Marguerite Davis, 1936 goldfish
Marguerite Davis, 1936
Le Monde A Envers, (Pomme d’Api), 1942 goldfish
Cat and Goldfish from the series One Hundred Tales. Utagawa Kuniyoshi. 1839
Cat and Goldfish from the series One Hundred Tales. Utagawa Kuniyoshi. 1839
From ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ 1966 Written by Elizabeth Rose Illustrated by Gerald Rose ( b. 1935) fish bowl
From ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ 1966 Written by Elizabeth Rose Illustrated by Gerald Rose ( b. 1935) fish bowl

Header painting: George Dunlop Leslie – The Goldfish Seller

Symbolism of Birds

VERNEUIL, Maurice Pillard (1869-1942). L'Animal dans la décoration. Paris- Librairie centrale des Beaux-arts, [1897] Birds Snails

Birds are much older than we are — living dinosaurs. Across cultures, birds function as smart collaborators with humans. We now know how smart (some) birds really are, but we have long had a sense of their canniness. The smartest bird in the world is currently thought to be the New Zealand Kea, which isn’t so great if you live in New Zealand and the kea is chewing the bits of rubber off your car.

New Zealand’s kakapo is also a bit of a… character.

BIRDS AND THE ANCIENT GREEKS

Birds are frequently utilised in tales of transmogrification. Wings are frequently stuck onto chimerae. This surely has something to do with humans’ long-held wish-fulfilment fantasy of being able to fly.

Take the Ancient Greek mythological siren.

Bird symbolism in the Greek imagination was common. Reverse-engineering the meaning of all these story-birds isn’t easy. For instance, we’ll never know for sure why Sirens took the form of a hybrid bird-woman, but we do know that in ancient mythology birds represented a number of things:

  • oracles
  • enchantresses
  • messengers of deities
  • mediators (between the human world and the supernatural realm)

Over the centuries, however, the Siren transformed. In the Middle Ages, the spread of Christianity throughout Europe saw the Siren morph from a bird-woman into a fish-bodied being, who personified the dangers of both the sea and female sexuality. The seventh-century medieval bestiary Liber monstruorum diversis generibus, or the “Book of Monsters,” is one of the earliest examples of this transition, describing Sirens as sea-girls who “are like human beings from the head to the navel, with the body of a maiden, but have scaly fish tails, with which they always lurk in the sea.” Illustrations from the period clearly reveal the difference; the Sirens now have voluptuous bodies, perform erotic moves, and exhibit brazen tactics of seduction, such as staring longingly into mirrors and combing their hair. These Sirens no longer symbolized the spirit, but rather, the pleasures of the flesh.

Vice
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Owl At Home by Arnold Lobel

Owl At Home is a 1975 picture book written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel. The book comprises five very short early reader stories about a kind, anxious and lonely owl. These owl stories, along with the frog and toad stories come from the second phase of Lobel’s creative career, in which he tapped into his own emotions and acknowledged he was writing “adult stories, slightly disguised as children’s stories”.

In the classroom, Lobel’s picture book would make a good companion to Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem “To The Moon“. Owl At Home would also make a good introduction to discussions about the theme of loneliness, present in a great many works.

Owl lives by himself in a regular Western-style dream house (with the upstairs, the hearth, and everything you’d expect to see in a picture book dream house). Although published in the 1970s, there’s nothing 70s about this dream house — there are 1800s/early 1900s details, such as the candle beside the bed. (There doesn’t seem to be electricity.) Picture books set in this era feel atemporal to a modern audience. I’m not sure if this house is in fact inside a tree, because we don’t get an establishing shot.

Owl at Home (1975) black and white
Owl at Home (1975) black and white
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Cats Looking Out Windows

Below is a collection of artwork and illustration featuring cats looking out of windows. I bet they’re wishing they were outside.

Ben Kliban, Cat Looking Out the Window from his calendar collection, 1970's
Ben Kliban, Cat Looking Out the Window from his calendar collection, 1970s.
Franco Matticchio cat looking out window
Franco Matticchio
Etching by Hans Thoma (1839-1924)
Etching by Hans Thoma (1839-1924)
Richard Egielski (born 1952) 1976 ‘Six O Two Is The Life’ illustration for ‘The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring’ by John Bellairs
Public and Private Life of Animals, by P. J. Stahl, illustrated by J. J. Grandville, Publication date 1877 cat
Public and Private Life of Animals, by P. J. Stahl, illustrated by J. J. Grandville, Publication date 1877
Illustration by Hans Drawing for Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales. 1934 cat looking out window
Illustration by Hans Drawing for Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales. 1934
Franco Matticchio cat bird window
Franco Matticchio
Cats at the Window by Wanda Gág, 1929
Cats at the Window by Wanda Gág, 1929
edward gorey cat window
Edward Gorey
The Sumner Intrigue by Frank Swinnerton (Cover artist not found) Hutchinson & Co. Ltd, London 1955 cat window
The Sumner Intrigue by Frank Swinnerton (Cover artist not found) Hutchinson & Co. Ltd, London 1955
Christmas Card by Edward Gorey; 1925-2000, cat and girl looking out window
Christmas Card by Edward Gorey; 1925-2000, cat and girl looking out window
André Édouard Marty (1882 - 1974) 1925 illustration for House And Garden magazine
André Édouard Marty (1882 – 1974) 1925 illustration for House And Garden magazine
Bettina Baldassari – Italian illustrator. The cast of this painting might easily be for the Australian picture book John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat (except the cat’s markings are different). The witchy vibe is there because of the cat and the broom.
Frederick Cayley Robinson (1862 - 1927) The Capture, 1924. Pencil, watercolour and gouache
Frederick Cayley Robinson (1862 – 1927) The Capture, 1924. Pencil, watercolour and gouache
Klaus Ensikat Arthur Rackham
Klaus Ensikat Arthur Rackham
Bettina Baldassari – Italian artist
Cover illustration for The New Yorker magazine March 1st 1982  Jean Jacques Sempé (b.1932) French illustrator and cartoonist
Cover illustration for The New Yorker magazine March 1st 1982 Jean Jacques Sempé (b.1932) French illustrator and cartoonist
Gahan Wilson 2003
Gahan Wilson 2003
Helen Oxenbury - Through the Looking Glass
Helen Oxenbury – Through the Looking Glass
Miroslav Ša šek, illustrator and writer
Miroslav Ša šek, illustrator and writer
Klaus Ensikat (german, b. 1937, Berlin, Germany) - Illustration from book Cats by Axel Eggebrecht (german, b. 1899, Dresden, Germany)
Klaus Ensikat (german, b. 1937, Berlin, Germany) – Illustration from book Cats by Axel Eggebrecht (german, b. 1899, Dresden, Germany)
Józef Wilkon's cat does not look out of the window.
Józef Wilkon’s cat does not look out of the window.

And of course you can’t have cats wishing to head outside without cats also wishing to come back in. So here are a few catslooking inside a window from the outside.

Anne Mortimer for Tosca’s Christmas by Matthew Sturgis
Paule Bernard Roussel – French artist
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Foxes In Children’s Literature

Ebenezer Newman Downard - Winter Landscape with Fox and Hares

A fox is a wolf who sends flowers.

Ruth Weston

Arthur Applebee asked a group of pre-school children to tell him the characters of a list of animals. They were more certain of the stereotypical personalities of animals they could only have met in stories, such as brave lions or sly foxes, than of the characters of dogs or cats, where experience of specific dogs and cats came in to complicate the picture. Story characteristics are prepared for reception, so to speak; they’re consistent, they don’t contradict themselves, and they’re dispensed at the pace that understanding demands.

The Child That Books Built, Frances Spufford
Reynard the Fox by Wilhelm Von Kaulbach
Reynard the Fox by Wilhelm Von Kaulbach
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