Cats in the Enlightenment (Part 15 – Cats in Art – Gainsborough, Mind, Fragonard, Gerard

The English painter Thomas Gainsborough captured cats in art in his painting Six Studies of Cats (1765-70) which seems to be a bit reminiscent of Leonardo DaVinci’s studies of cats.


Even though Gainsborough preferred painting landscapes, he was a famous portrait artist.  An example of which is The Artist’s Daughters with a Cat (1759). The painting’s main colors are brown, beige and grey tones which camouflage the cat so well that it seems to be a part of the older girl’s dress.  Although the cat is barely visible, we see that it looks like it might be trying to bite the younger sister’s shoulder.  Perhaps there is some deeper meaning to the painting regarding the two sisters’ relationship.

The Swiss artist Gottfried Mind also known as the Raphael of Cats (1758-1814), was a genius at capturing every nuance of a cat’s attitude.  He loved cats very much and left behind dozens of pictures of them in various poses and situations.  In the painting, Katzen, a mother cat sits above her two kittens on a bench while they play below.  Her look is expectant and playful.

Katzen Gottfried Mind Private Collection cats in art

Gottfried Mind
Private Collection

In yet another painting, Cat in a Cage, a cat sits in a bird cage surrounded by mice, indicative of Mind’s sense of humor and  irony. 

Jean Honore Fragonard and his sister-law Marguerite Gerard painted L’eleve Interessante together. In the painting a young girl admires a painting while a mischievous cat tries to attack a dog sitting on a stool behind her. 

L'Élève intéressante Jean-Honore Fragonard and Marguerite Gerard Private Collection

L’Élève intéressante
Jean-Honore Fragonard and Marguerite Gerard
Private Collection

In another portrait in blue and white tones, Fragonard again pits cat against dog but this time in the arms of a beautiful girl. Jean-Honoré Fragonard – Girl Playing with a Dog and a Cat (said to be a Portrait of Marie-Madeleine Colombe) 





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  1. In the Artist’s Daughters with a Cat – the cat looks like a lion!

  2. The animals in the last two paintings are quite humorous! Do you think the artist intentionally made the cats and dogs animated and energetic compared to the peaceful countenances of the female subjects? I like the white cat especially in L’eleve Interessante, typical cat behavior lol!