Arts Everyday Living: The Art of the Cat Week–Mother Love and Playful Kittens in American Art

Artist unknown, Cat and Kittens, c. 1872/1883, oil on millboard, Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.


Do you love cats? Or at least, like them? What about this trio? They may have lived long ago, but can you still relate to them today? Their names and owner unknown to us as well as the identity of the painter.

Do the prominent eyes of the large calico almost hypnotize us with that unwavering stare? Reinforced on a smaller scale by her tiny charge curled just below? While their companion, to our right, seems to be at war with the orange ball of yarn, his paws entangled in its never ending woolen string.

Each of our feline friends is exquisitely marked in decorative patterns of multi-colored stripes and patches. Is it impossible to refrain from petting the soft texture of the immaculate fur? Or perhaps you might initially hesitate, waiting patiently for the mother’s protective instinct  to subside.

CAT AND KITTENS is generally considered an example of American Folk Art. Like the creator of the work above, most of the early folk artists were anonymous and often self-taught, working in a variety of media including hand-crafts such as quilting and wood-carving as well as traditional oil painting.



In the public domain, courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The National Gallery of Art does not endorse or approve use of the above image or any of the material on this website. Nor has the National Gallery of Art participated in any projects utilizing the said image.

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