Did Picasso live with domestic cats? Yes, and he painted them.

The answer to the question in the title is a definite yes. At one stage (at least) he lived with a Siamese cat. He was a cat lover and many of his paintings include a cat. What got me interested in this topic is the story in The Times today entitled “Picasso with cat is a £20 million stroke of luck for charity”. The story features a large Picasso painting of his young wife, Jacqueline. At the time he was 83 years of age. She is naked on a couch and at her feet is a black cat. The painting is in the manner of Edouard Manet’s Olympia.

Picasso with cat and his painting of his young wife Jacqueline and their black cat

Picasso with cat and his painting of his young wife Jacqueline and their black cat. Image by MikeB based on photo of Picasso used under fair use for educational purposes and picture of his painting under the same premise.

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The cat in the painting was a stray cat that he and Jacqueline had adopted. In 1988 the Italian fashion entrepreneur Maria Manetti Shrem bought the painting for £1.2 million. She kept it at her flat in San Francisco and has now decided to sell it. She is now 83 years of age herself and the painting is estimated to be worth up to £20 million. A good investment. She’s going to give the proceeds to charity she says. She is selling other works for the same purpose.

I don’t think that it is one of his best works. Picasso was a Cubist or a post-Impressionist. I believe. I am not an expert on paintings. But the black cat he painted looks incredibly clumsy but then it’s meant to be, I guess.

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Picasso would not be the first artist or the last to really like domestic cats. They do symbolise femininity and sexuality. And domesticity and homeliness and emotional warmth. They can also symbolise evil or they have done to some people, in fact many people during mediaeval times.

Picasso was photographed with kittens or cats throughout his life. In one of his earliest paintings completed during his Blue Period, Woman and Cat (see below), the subject appears to be an attractive woman in nightclothes in a loving embrace with her domestic cat companion. It’s a nice one which touches me. I don’t know about the painting on the wall within the painting which looks like some sort of comic depiction of a gentleman!

Woman with cat by Picasso 1900

Woman with cat by Picasso 1900. Published here under fair use.

The crazy cat lady, an unfair description and independent woman living with a cat or cats, was not forgotten by Picasso who painted Crazy Lady (Woman) with Cats. The painting is below.

Crazy Woman with Cats by Picasso 1901

Crazy Woman with Cats by Picasso 1901. Reproduced here under fair use.

In addition to the loving relationship between people and their cats, Picasso also produce paintings that focused on the dark side. These interpretations emerged from 1935-1945, considered to be the war years.

Picasso stayed in Paris during this time and continued to paint. His paintings included symbolic references to the politics of the time. For example, his painting Cat Seizing a Bird from April 1939 depicts a cat gripping a defenceless bird and tearing flesh from it. This apparently depicts the fascist Gen Franco defeating Madrid.

In 1960 Picasso painted his wife on another occasion with cats. She sits with a small black cat on her lap, no doubt the same cat in the above-mentioned painting.

My personal viewpoint is that domestic cats are great subject to paint. They are also great subjects to photograph particularly the hairless cats and the jet black svelte and slender Oriental Shorthair cats. It’s about shapes and patterns. In both these cat breeds can produce and wonderful shapes and designs.

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Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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