Cats in 20th Century History and Art (Part 4-Félix Vallotton)

Félix Vallotton cats, cats in artGreatly influenced by Holbein, Durer and Ingres and later by Japanese print art, the Swiss painter Félix Vallotton (1865-1925) produced both woodcuts and paintings in which he sometimes included cats.  His woodcuts consist of a black background with only a few white lines to outline his images.  In a series of six woodcuts called Instruments de musique, one of the woodcuts features a cat standing on a chest of drawers with its tail up next to a solitary man playing a flute.

Félix Vallotton Man Playing a Flute Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam cats in paintings

Man Playing a Flute
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam



The cat playfully seeks attention and brings lightness to the composition. In another black and white woodcut, La Paresse (Laziness), dated 1896, a nude woman lies across a patterned bedspread and reaches for a white cat. Both woman and cat are white, the color invoking the idea of purity, hinting of an emotionless sensuality. Painted in the same year, Women with Cats is almost reminiscent of Paul Gaugin’s composition of Tahitian women seated on the floor.  Here the cats are indisputably a symbol of fertility. Vallotton cannot be categorized as either an impressionist or a post –impressionist.   Part of Les Nabi (prophet in Hebrew) group of Parisian painters,  Félix Vallotton was mainly interested in depicting a specific moment in time using color, space and abstraction.  Vallotton’s work is very different from his friends Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard who also included cats in their works.  Even though they were also part of the Les Nabis, their works are not quite as abstract as Vallotton’s.






Félix Edouard Vallotton (December 28, 1865 – December 29, 1925)



Felix Vallotton, cat



Two Cats woodcut by Felix Vallotton from the periodical Pan published by F. Fontane and Co., Berlin 1895

Two Cats woodcut, 1895






woman and cat



Want to know more about the cat in literature, art and history? Then Revered and Reviled is the book for  you. Now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. 

Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat, cat history, cats

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Laura Vocelle

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: