Morris Hirshfield (1872-1946, Polish)

Morris Hirshfield catsMorris Hirshfield (1872-1946, Polish) emigrated from Poland to the United States at age eighteen and settled in New York City. At first he worked in a garment factory and then for several years as a laborer. He and his brother then started a very successful slipper business. In 1935, because of poor health, Hirshfield retired from the business.

It was only then that he turned to art. Initially, he was disappointed with his abilities stating, “It seems that my mind knew well what I wanted to portray, but my hands were unable to produce what my mind demanded.” Even so, by 1939 two of his works caught the attention of the Museum of Modern Art and were included in a private exhibition, and in 1943 he held a one-man show which was not well received by The Art Digest which termed him as “The Master of Two Left Feet”. Despite this, Hirshfield became one of the foremost folk artists of the time producing only 77 works in his nine year career.

It is clear, however, that he liked cats, capturing both domestic and wild cats in his unique style. The Tiger is seen as one of his most unforgettable animal pictures. Vivid patterns with the striated sky meeting densely packed vegetation as well as the cat’s piercing gaze give this painting a psychological charge.  Working from live models, postcards, memory and imagination, Hirshfield’s paintings have been appreciated for their decorative patterns, symmetrical designs and for their nativism which were no doubt influenced by his work with fabrics such as draperies, upholstery and clothing.  Some remarked that his works were reminiscent of manuscript illumination and surrealist in nature. Many of his works are in the Museum of Modern Art, the American Folk Art Museum and the Musée de l’Art Moderne, Paris.



Morris Hirschfield, Girl with Angora Cat, 1944.

Girl with Angora Cat, 1944



Morris Hirshfield (American, b. Poland, 1872-1946) - Angora Cat, 1937 - Oil on canvas.

Angora Cat, 1937 – Oil on canvas.

Morris Hirshfield, Cats in the Snow

Cats in the Snow



Morris Hirshfield, Lion




Morris Hirshfield, Three Angora Cats

Three Angora Cats



Morris Hirshfield, Tiger, 1940

Tiger, 1940




Morris_Hirshfield,Leopard Family, 1943

Leopard Family, 1943



Mother Cat With Kittens by Morris Hirshfield

Mother Cat With Kittens



Nude on Sofa with Three Pussies, Morris Hirshfield

Nude on Sofa with Three Pussies


Want to know more about the cat in art, history and literature? 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


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