Artists and Their Pets: 2020-June-8

Artists and Their Pets:
Emily Newton Barto

Emily Newton Barto (1896–1968) was an American children’s book illustrator, writer, craftsperson, writer, and designer.

In 1937, as part of the New Deals Federal Art Project Barto painted the mural, “Animal Tales” for the Fordham Hospital in New York City. A docile tabby cat served as Barto’s model as she brought to life the nursery rhyme There Was a Crooked Man:

‘There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile;
He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.’
Emily Newton Barto (1896–1968)

Artists and Their Pets: 2020-June-1

Artists and Their Pets: Ai Weiwei

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei produces sculptural installations, architectural projects, photographs and videos. He is known for the frequently provocative and subversive dimension of his art, as well as his political outspokenness, which has triggered various forms of repression from Chinese authorities.

Ai lives with more than 30 cats in his Beijing studio. Offering him daily solace, he often posts pictures of them on social media. He has a profound connection to animals writing in a blog post, “The cats and dogs in my home enjoy high status; they seem more like the lords of the manor than I do. The poses they strike in the courtyard often inspire more joy in me than the house itself.”

Artists and Their Pets: 2020-May-25

Artists and Their Pets: Berenice Abbott

Berenice Abbott (1898-1991) documented the urban landscape of New York City with her with her wide-format camera in the 1920s and ’30s. Known for her signature bird’s-eye and worm’s-eye points-of-view, Abbott helped shape how others saw the evolving urban landscape. Abbott also redefined gender roles, unapologetically wearing ski pants rather than skirts and living with her life partner, art critic Elizabeth McCausland for decades. Abbott was a lover of cats, both real and in images. She was known to keep in touch with her friends by sending them cat postcards she found in museum gift shops.

Artists and Their Pets: 2020-May-18

Artists and Their Pets in Friendship – Matisse & Picasso

French artist Henri Matisse and Spanish artist Pablo Picasso were friends and rivals. They had a profound influence on one another and their art.

They first met in 1904 when they were introduced at the Paris salon of art collector, Gertrude Stein. At the time they were rivals, each vying for recognition in the art world. Picasso’s disciples once wrote anti-Matisse graffiti on the walls near Picasso’s studio. Matisse responded by using the term “Cubism” to mock the art of Picasso and his followers, a label that stuck and became part of art history.

As they grew older, they grew closer. By the end of World War II, the rivals had become great friends. Matisse was now almost eighty, nearly bed-ridden and living in apartments in Vence, a town close to Nice. Alone, his wife having recently divorced him and his children grown, Matisse kept his studio filled with birds and cats for company and inspiration.

Picasso with his mistress, Francoise Gilot, visited Matisse often. Picasso, who was eleven years younger, brought recent paintings to Matisse for comments. They exchanged paintings and even exhibited together. Picasso considered Matisse “an elder brother.” Matisse thought of Picasso as “the kid.”

Matisse and Picasso shared a love for doves. Picasso grew up around pigeons, which are scientifically the same as doves. His father, also an artist, bred pigeons and they were one of his favorite subjects to paint. In turn, they became a subject Picasso returned to again and again throughout his life.

Matisse’s love for doves began in 1936 when he acquired a a variety of caged songbirds and doves from merchants along the river Seine. He delighted in their shapes and colors, plumage and singing. Doves were also inspiration for his “Cut-outs”.
In a gesture of friendship. Matisse gave Picasso, who also loved birds, one of his doves.

In 1949, Picasso created the “Dove of Peace” poster for the 1949 Paris Peace Conference. It caught on and became an international symbol for the peace movement. Picasso’s daughter with Francoise Gilot was born the same day as the poster hit the streets of Paris. It seemed ordained that she be named Paloma, which is “dove” in Spanish.

When Matisse died in November of 1954, Picasso was disconsolate and couldn’t paint for days. When a friend called on him, he saw him staring out a window, murmuring “Matisse is dead. Matisse is dead”.

Years before he had said, “When one of us dies, there are things the other will not be able to say to anyone else again.” As a final homage to his lost friend, Picasso painted a series called “Studio” showing an open window looking out on the Mediterranean surrounded by doves. Matisse’s doves.

Artists and their Pets: 2020-May-11

Artists and their Pets: Ernest Hemingway

American novelist and short story writer Ernest Hemingway was also remembered for his love of polydactyls, his six-toed cats. After a ship’s captain gifted Hemingway with his first cat, named Snowball, Hemingway was hooked. He owned 23 cats by 1945.

Hemingway named his cats after famous people and let them roam freely about his house. He fed them generously from cases of salmon and even offered them a mixture of whiskey and milk. His love of cats inspired his creative writing, evident in his 1925 short story titled “Cats in the Rain,” which is said to be inspired by a true story of his wife encountering a stray cat on vacation.

Ernest Miller Hemingway (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961)

Artists and Their Pets: 2020-May-4

Emily Carr was a Canadian artist and writer credited as one of the first painters in Canada to adopt a modernist and Post-Impressionist style. Her paintings were inspired by the Indigenous cultures of the Pacific Northwest Coast.

Carr ventured into the wilds of British Columbia, roamed its forests and hills. There, she met the province’s indigenous people. They became her friends, and even gave her the nickname of the Laughing One. Carr sought to capture the vanishing arts and customs of Canada’s native people as well as the vast landscape she loved so profoundly.

Carr was fascinated by animals. She had parrots, chipmunks, a raccoon, white rats, cats, dogs, and a Javanese macaque monkey named Woo. Carr lived and painted them. She took them camping and even pushed some of them in a baby buggy around the town of Victoria where she lived.

Emily Carr (1871 – 1945)

Artists and Their Pets: 2020-Apr-26

Artists and Their Pets – Edvard Munch

Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944) is known for his emotionally intense paintings which depict the darker side of life: anxiety, loneliness, terror, and death. Many of his paintings reflect his own mental anguish. Munch’s most famous work, The Scream (1893) was inspired by a hallucinatory experience in which he felt and heard a “scream throughout nature” .

Not enjoying satisfying interpersonal relationships, Munch turned to his dogs, many of whom were terriers, for emotional fulfillment. They gave him joy and he took them everywhere, even to the movies. They accompanied him to the studio, and inspired some of his works, including his painting, Head of Dog (1930).

Edvard Munch (1863-1944)

Artists and Their Pets: 2020-Apr-20

American painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell’s works idealized American culture. He is best known for his covers for “The Saturday Evening Post”. Rockwell’s subjects, taken from small-town life, were treated with gentle, insightful humor. As Rockwell remarked, “I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed.”

Rockwell was an avid dog lover, preferring the humble mutt over purebreds. One of his favorites, a mongrel named Pitter, accompanied him to the studio, napping on the floor while he painted.

Rockwell kept extensive reference files consisting of hundreds of photographs and magazine clippings of dogs for use in his art. He also enlisted family pets and his neighbors dogs to serve as live models.

In addition to dogs, Rockwell also worked with horses, cows, deer and even a bear. In How I Make a Picture (1949), he cautioned other artists to depict four-legged creatures in a manner “just as carefully and understandingly as you paint the people.”

Artists and Their Pets: 2020-Apr-13

When Georgia O’Keeffe, artist of the American Southwest, moved to New Mexico she fell in love with Chow dogs. Considered a loyal, protective, and independent breed, O’Keeffe sketched and took photographs of these dignified creatures with the plush fur.

She referred to her Chows as “Little People” and they slept in her bedroom at night. Said the devoted O’Keeffe, “It seems to be my mission in life to wait on a dog”. O’Keeffe owned six Chows during her lifetime and was a member of The Chow Chow Club, Inc.

Artists and Their Pets: 2020-Apr-6

Mexican artist Frida Kahlo lived a turbulent life, underscored by depression, chronic pain from a horrible accident that left her unable to bear children, and a destructive relationship with fellow artist Diego Rivera. To cope, she channeled her passion into painting and mothering her numerous pets.

Frida’s menagerie included an Amazon parrot named Bonito, a fawn called Granizo, an eagle named Gertrudis Caca Blanca, various parakeets, macaws, a spider monkey, and Mexican hairless dogs. Of her 143 paintings, 55 of them are self-portraits featuring her beloved animals.