REVIEW: Artful Cats: Discoveries from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American art by Mary Savig
Cats, cats, and more cats! Expressive or aloof, affectionate or enigmatic, cats have complicated characters that make them compelling artists’ muses. Artful Cats explores the quirky and charming relationships of artists with their cats in 130 rarely seen photos, paintings, sketches, manuscripts, and letters from the Archives of American Art. Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, Louise Nevelson, Marcel Breuer, Yves Tanguy, Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Weston, Robert Indiana, Judy Chicago, Berenice Abbott, and Romare Bearden show off their artful cats, which appear as companions, inspirations, instigators, and often regents of the home or studio. The images, culled from the archive’s extensive holdings from the nineteenth century through today, celebrate our cultural heritage through our enduring fascination, love, and bemusement with our feline familiars. A foreword by Kate Haw, director of the Archives of American Art, describes how these archival treasures provide a window on unexpected and personal details of celebrated artists’ lives and work.
Dear Ms. Savig,
What a gorgeous book for cat lovers. Youtube might be the domain of endless cat videos now but for a long time American artists have loved and celebrated their feline friends. And I’m all about reading more books about cats and kittens. Covering everything from personal snapshots, pen and ink drawings, postcards, sculptures, memorial essays and poems, watercolor paintings, letters and more, it shows that cats have been both muses and beloved companions, inspirations and occasional (still beloved) demons who have delighted and soothed those with whom they lived. While there is some formal artwork featuring cats by these artists, more of the pictures are informal and I think this is definitely something mainly cat lovers would enjoy. B