Cats in the Enlightenment (Part 17 – Cats in Asian Art)

Europeans were not the only ones painting our famous beast during this period.  Japanese, Chinese, Korean and even Indian painters also included cats in Asian art of the 18th century.  Children with a Cat and Mouse, 1768-69, by the Japanese painter Suzuki Harunobu (1725-1770), shows a young boy holding a rather large white cat while […]

Cats in the Enlightenment (Part 16 – Cats in Art – Francisco Goya)

Francisco Goya (1746-1828), used cats in art as symbols and allegories in his etchings.  In the 1799 etching Alla va eso or in English, There it Goes, part of the Caprichos group of etchings, a witch holds on to the devil who is holding some sort of staff which a cat bites.  Goya often used […]

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

Cats in art were found in all countries of Europe. Painters such as Gainsborough, Mind, Fragonard, and Gerard captured the unruly feline on their canvases. 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.   […]

Cats in the Enlightenment (Part 14 – Cats in Art – Perronneau, Crespi, Desportes)

CAT ARTISTS PERRONNEAU, CRESPI, DESPORTES The French painter Jean Baptiste Perronneau (1715-1783), specialized in portraits which were more prestigious and lucrative than landscapes.  Girl with a Kitten painted in 1745, shows a very pretty young girl holding a long haired grey cat, one of its paws held gently in her hand.  The grey of the […]

Cats in the Enlightenment (Part 13 – Cats in Art – William Hogarth)

The English painter, William Hogarth, (1697-1794), who was highly critical of the lax social mores of the time, set out to draw and paint about issues which he felt strongly, using the cat symbolically in many of his works.  A versatile artist, Hogarth was both a painter and engraver.  Some of his most famous engravings […]


Conspicuous as ever, the ubiquitous cat posed for the painters of the century.  The typical cats in art trying to steal fish or meat, or having a duel with a dog, were now accompanied by the cat’s presence in portraits, especially of children and/or ladies.  In the 1713 Dutch Baroque painting, A Woman and a […]

Cats in the Enlightenment (Part 11 – Sir Walter Scott and Hinx)

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) owned a cat named Hinx and once made a comment to Washington Irving, “Ah! Cats are mysterious kind of folk.  There is more passing in their minds than we are aware of.  It comes no doubt from their being so familiar with warlocks and witches.” (Van Vechten, 1921, p. 81)  Scott loved […]

Cats in the Enlightenment (Part 10 – Christopher Smart’s Jubilate Agno)

In addition to William Cowper (last week’s post) another poet who went mad, reportedly suffering from some sort of religious mania, was the English poet Christopher Smart, (1722-1771).   Not even his good friend Samuel Johnson, who did not believe that Smart should be confined for merely wanting people to pray with him, could keep him […]

Cats in the Enlightenment (Part 9 – William Cowper’s Cat Poems)

By and large, the cat was highly thought of during this age especially by those eccentrics who were judged to be a bit mad.   William Cowper (1751-1800), who had bouts of madness and depression was no less a great poet.  His first volume of poems published in 1782, was, by his death in 1800, so […]

Cats in the Enlightenment (Part 8 – Katterfelto the Conjurer)

The evil mantle that the cat had procured through history from the Greeks and early Christians was exploited and manipulated into a source of individual profit for a Prussian magician, Katterfelto (1743-1799).  In order to entice crowds to his show, he used a “Famous Moroccan Black Cat” in his act, which he advertised as “evil”.  […]

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