Categories: Cats in Art

Édouard Manet loved cats and many of his letters have small sketches of cats

Édouard Manet’s cat illustrations on some of his letters. Photo in public domain. Montage by PoC.

This is a little bit of cat trivia. It is not going to change the world but it is quite interesting nonetheless to people who like cats.

Édouard Manet, a French modernist painter of the 19th century, was ‘a pivotal figure in the world of art in the transition from Realism to Impressionism’. Personally, I like his paintings although I am not convinced that he was the greatest of draughtsmen.

I say this because there are some fairly average depictions of the human face and we are told that his casual, spontaneous, watercolour illustrations of cats and other objects added to some of his letters were in fact carefully contrived by using tracing paper.

We are told that he wanted to give the impression that he casually added the illustrations freehand to his letters as a great artist might, but Dr Emily Beeney, the associate curator of drawings at the J Paul Getty Museum, told The Observer newspaper that she had spotted tracing.

“They are always described as breezy, virtuosic and effortless, and dashed off in a moment. But what I discovered is that most of these things seem to have been traced from more searching and careful drawings that he had made in his sketchbooks. He would take semi–transparent letter paper, laid down over a sketchbook page, trace that design with a wash of grey watercolour and then basically colour it in with watercolour.”-Dr Emily Beeney.

To me, it doesn’t really matter. He loved cats and his cat, Zizi (a good French name for a cat), features in his paintings.

“.. the charming fiction of the cat posing in the garden makes plain Manet’s hope that such drawings would be received as fresh and spontaneous, unpremeditated, easy.”

Beeney thinks that the experts overlooked the tracing aspect of these letter illustrations because they were reluctant to diminish the standing of a renowned and influential artist who, at the time, caused great controversy but his paintings inspired young painters who would create a new movement of Impressionism, a style of painting that almost everyone on the planet has heard about. It’s nice to know that he loved cats as well.

SOME CATS IN ART EXAMPLES:

Cats In Advertising

Cats have been used extensively in advertising. A specific poster got me onto the subject. It is not strictly advertising ...
Read More

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, ...
Read More

Girl with a Kitten by Lucian Freud

From time to time I like to write about cats in paintings. This is one by Lucian Freud which he ...
Read More

Cat Sculpture by Grayson Perry

This is a photograph of Grayson Perry's sculpture of a cat which he has uploaded to Twitter hours ago. I ...
Read More

The sex symbolism behind the cat in Hockney’s Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy

The all-white cat gazing out of the balcony doors to the exterior, in David Hockney's painting Mr and Mrs Clark ...
Read More

These fluffy cats are some of the most intricate drawings you’ll ever see

This is the art of Kamwei Fong. He is a smart guy and he lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Below ...
Read More
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.

Recent Posts

Domestic cat defends her kittens with extreme aggression and courage

BAGCILAR, ISTANBUL, TURKEY: This is a video taken from a television screen of a community…

8 hours ago

5 reasons why black cats are less likely to be adopted

Despite Cats Protection reporting that their campaign to promote black cats has been successful and…

14 hours ago

Prospect of water resources drying up affecting dog and cat food manufacturing in US

Water resources are under pressure and it will get worse. Globalisation is putting pressure on…

17 hours ago

Will driverless cars mean less cats killed on roads?

We're not sure how many cats are killed on roads in either the UK or…

19 hours ago

Do cats have nine lives?

Of course they don't. It's just a saying based on the fact that cats are…

20 hours ago

Feline mindfulness: staying in the present

John Gray, the philosopher, says that we should not live in "an imagined future". The…

20 hours ago