Did Vincent van Gogh have a cat?

Today is a good day to ask whether Vincent van Gogh had a cat because on this day in 1890, Vincent van Gogh shot himself once in the chest. He was aged 37 and it took him two days to die in the company of his beloved brother Theo. Despite being a superb artist, now celebrated as one of the all-time greats, at the time he was unknown and broke.

Letter from Vincent van Gogh headed with sketch including a cat. Image copyright free due to lapse of time (believed).

I can find two works of art by him in which a cat is included; there may be more and if so I’ll add them later. In the first, I have published a letter from Vincent van Gogh which has a heading of an sketch drawn by him in which there is a black cat. It is called “Daubingny’s Garden with Black Cat”. The letter was sent from Auvers in 1890, the last year of his life.

Vincent van Gogh’s sketch of hand with bowl and cat

In the second sketch called “Hand with Bowl and Cat” we see a cat resting with a slightly anthropomorphised face which was typical of the time together with a hand grasping a bowl. It was created with black chalk on laid paper while Vincent lived in the village of Nuenen in 1885, which was five years before his death. As he preferred to draw from live models it is suggested that the cat was present with him at the time. This sketch is at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Nuenen is the home to the Van Gogh Village Museum.

The website, “Why Van Gogh Matters” tells us that a popular children’s book was published in 2010 called Vincent Van Gogh’s Cat. It was written and illustrated by schoolkids from East Washington Academy in Munice, Indiana. They were assisted by Deborah Brown. The book is credited with introducing children to art and inspiring generations of children to take it up.

P.S. There are many spoof paintings and pictures of cats as Vincent van Gogh on the internet. A merging of two popular subjects: cats and Vincent.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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