Fine Art Felines Friday: Paris Through the Window by Marc Chagall

Paris Through the Window (1913)

Paris Through the Window (1913)

Today’s short and sweet Fine Art Felines post features the painting “Paris Through the Window” by the Russian (and later French) Jewish artist Marc Chagall (1887 – 1985).   Painted in 1913 after Chagall moved to Paris, this painting portrays the draw of Paris to all types of artists who flocked to the city in the early 1900’s.  Chagall was an “early modernist”, and in this piece experiments with a cubist style.  What I really love about this painting is the color juxtaposition: a rainbow of colors on the window frame that produces an almost prismatic effect upon the city amidst an otherwise brown and drab landscape.  I like to think that perhaps Chagall, in looking out his window at the city, was able to imagine all the possibilities that were in front of him – kind of like looking at the world through “rose-colored glasses”.  And of course, having a colorful cat to help you dream is an integral part of that visualization!  I’m not sure what is up with the human face on the cat, but if Chagall was anything like many of the cat lovers I know (including myself), we often anthropomorphize our kitties, giving them very human-like personalities layered upon their feline souls.

Regardless, this painting makes me happy.  How lucky would we be if we could all see such color outside our own windows of reality?

When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what colour really is”. — Pablo Picasso

Fine Art Felines Friday: Electric Cat by Louis Wain

An Electric Cat painted by Louis Wain.

An Electric Cat painted by Louis Wain.

Happy Independence Day!  I chose today’s painting by Louis Wain because it almost looks like this cat is erupting into fireworks, which is appropriate for my current blogging soundtrack (hint: it’s just before sunset and people in my neighborhood are getting amped up on beer and whiskey and are ready to light things on fire and watch them explode already!).  I could not find a title or a date for this piece, but that’s not too surprising, since Wain painted a lot of cat pictures like this in his later years, many of which were untitled and undated.  But let me back up.

I can’t believe, that as a person who loves cats and who loves art, and even more loves art featuring cats, I’d never heard of Louis Wain.  Seriously.  Just do an image google for “Louis Wain cats” and you’ll see what I mean – what a prolific painter!  He was born all the way back in 1860 in London, and led an unusual life, it seems to me.  He was the oldest of six children; none of his five sisters were ever married, but lived with their mother; all except for the youngest sister, who was declared insane and was admitted to an asylum.  Strangely enough, Wain, who had a cleft lip, did not attend regular school as a child, but achieved modest success as a free-lance artist with his illustrations of animals and the English countryside.  At the age of 23, he married Emily, who succumbed to breast cancer a mere 3 years into their marriage.  However, it was during her time of sickness that Emily and Louis rescued a black and white kitten that they named Peter, who did much to comfort Emily while she was ill.  Louis produced many sketches and paintings of Peter, who changed the course of his art for the rest of Louis’ life.

While Louis’ early work was more realistic, Louis’ intermediate works were anthropomorphized versions of cats, wearing the latest fashions, having parties, and doing other things that humans might do.  During this time, Louis was actively involved with several animal charities such as the Governing Council of Our Dumb Friends League, the Society for the Protection of Cats, and the Anti-Vivisection Society. He was also active in the National Cat Club, acting as President and Chairman of the committee at times.  You gotta love a man who loves cats this much, right???

Sadly, during his later years, Louis was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was institutionalized until someone publicized his plight (he was quite a popular artist for his time, although poorly managed his money).  His new doctor diagnosed him instead with Asperger’s Syndrome, a type of autism, and Louis was moved to a hospital that had a garden and colony of cats, which Louis enjoyed for the last 15 years of his life.  It was during this time that his paintings became more abstract, using bright colors and complex patterns.  Louis died on July 4, 1939, making today the 75th anniversary of his death (seriously, I did not plan this).

H.G. Wells (who wrote The War of the Worlds and many other works of science fiction) said of Louis Wain:

He has made the cat his own. He invented a cat style, a cat society, a whole cat world. English cats that do not look and live like Louis Wain cats are ashamed of themselves.”

Fine Art Felines Funday: Lying Female Nude with Cat by Pablo Picasso

Because I’m taking Writing 101, my Fine Art Felines posts are now going to be on Sundays instead of Fridays, at least for the month of June.  I chose today’s Fine Art Felines piece, Lying Female Nude with Cat by Pablo Picasso, as a juxtaposition to the last piece I featured, Woman with Cat, also by Pablo Picasso (drawn in 1900).  Today’s piece from Picasso’s later years, completed in 1964, is a great example of the surrealism exhibited by Picasso as his painting style matured and evolved.  However, if you compare it to Woman with Cat, you’ll see that there are some similarities between the two paintings and that (as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago) you can see the characteristic Picasso style even in his earlier work.  For example, the color palate is very similar; the greens and blues, while more saturated than in the earlier painting, still reflect a quiet and intimate mood.  Further, while the previous piece was impressionistic and this piece is more surrealist, there is still a great deal of motion and communication between the two subjects.  Perhaps this is the “bizarro” world version of the earlier drawing…maybe this painting is the view of the person in the portrait and shows what he sees as he looks into the room and gazes upon a woman and her cat.

It seems that Picasso was rather fond of painting women with cats, including several nudes – and to be honest, if I were a painter, I’d probably paint a lot of women with cats, too! What similarities do you see between the two Picasso pieces?  Which one do you prefer?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Lying Female Nude with Cat by Pablo Picasso

Lying Female Nude with Cat by Pablo Picasso

Fine Art Felines Friday: Woman with Cat by Pablo Picasso

Today’s Fine Art Felines artwork is “Woman with Cat” by Pablo Picasso.  This impressionist pastel sketch was completed in 1900, which is considered Picasso’s early years (Picasso lived from 1881 – 1973).  What I really like about this work is that it is not typically what I picture when I think about Picasso, with whom I associate abstract, cubist art.  There’s a lot of subtle movement in this sketch (e.g., the woman’s hand petting the cat), with muted emotion connecting these two naptime snugglers.  My favorite thing about this sketch, however, is not really the subject, but the picture of the person in the background.  I can just hear an art instructor telling Picasso how to shape and shadow the woman, but then I can also hear Picasso whispering to himself, “screw that, I’m gonna draw this funky little cartoon person right back here just to bring a little bit of myself to this piece”.  It almost looks like a woman with a mustache drawn her…was Picasso a cartoonist or comedian at heart?  I don’t know.

This is a sketch that uses my favorite colors, and I love the layering, the softness, and of course the cat in this piece.  I hope you like it too!  Muah!

Woman with Cat by Pablo Picasso

Woman with Cat by Pablo Picasso

Fine Art Felines Funday: Slim Woman with a Cat by Geza Farago

Slim Woman with a Cat by Geza FaragoI’ll admit I’ve been slacking.  I’m supposed to post Fine Art Felines on Fridays, but since I was being lazy (owning it!), I didn’t get around to writing this post until today.  However, today’s painting is one that I really love.

“Slim Woman with a Cat” was painted by Hungarian artist Geza Farago (1877 – 1928) in 1913.  Farago worked in Budapest as a theatrical costume designer, poster artist, and (my favorite) a cartoonist.  What I love about this painting is the art-deco style of the lines (especially with the cat – it reminds me of Le Chat Noir), and the combination of flat colors used on the cat, dress and sandy background in conjunction with the shaded areas of the woman’s neck, face and hands.  The combination makes a 2-dimensional painting pop, turning geometric shapes into a 3-D illusion full of depth and texture.  I also really like the colors that were used, with the blue and green details on the dress echoed in the night sky and water.  I hope you like it, too!  Happy Mother’s Day!

Ladies I Love: N is for the Nymphs, Naiads, and Nixies

Water Spirit Sketches by Ewa LudwiczakToday’s A to Z Challenge post is brought to you by the letter N, but these Ladies I Love may not actually exist (although some might argue with you).  I’ve had a number of items in my adult life that all needed to be named.  Not CL208F2, or Freddy or “Green Notebook” but something far more creative and descriptive.  For example, I always wanted someone to be able to look at our department’s network of computers and go “oh – there’s the aquatic ecology lab computer” and not have to shuffle around a bunch of papers looking for the right identification code.  Well, ok, that only partly relates to today’s ladies I love post – the other part is that I grew up loving fairy tales (you know, the kind with fairies).  The artwork of Brian Froud used to mesmerize and terrify me all at once (I’m looking at you, Jenny Greenteeth!).  Hence, being an aquatic ecologist and fish biologist and fairy “aFISHionado”, I’ve tended to assign names based on aquatic folklore.  In fact, part of my email address is “limnixie”, a word I made up that loosely translates to female lake fairy.

Here are a few short definitions for you about some of my favorite aquatic fairies:

  • Nymph:  Generally, female water spirits who animate nature.  Often depicted as young and beautiful maidens who love to sing and dance; they can be immortal, but can also die under some circumstances.
  • Naiad:  A type of water nymph that presides over fresh water of any kind (e.g., fountains, wells, springs, streams and brooks).
  • Nixie (or Neck):  German or Nordic, a water spirit, typically a river mermaid; they can be malicious but also kind or benevolent as well.  They are shape-shifters, and are said to lure men to their watery doom in some cases.  You can recognize them in their human form by noting that their skirt hems are always wet.

Do you have a favorite type of fairy?  Do you resonate with any kind of natural habitat, type of plant, or landscape feature?  If so, there might be a fairy just for you!  Look it up and tell me what you find!

Ladies I Love: M is for Marjane Satrapi, Graphic Novelist and Film Producer from Iran

I can’t believe I’m already writing my “M” post for the A to Z Challenge!  I’ve got another cartoonist (I think this is the last one) for today’s Lady I Love: Marjane Satrapi.  I chose Marjane Satrapi for today for two very interesting reasons:  first, she grew up in Iran under the Muslim fundamentalists who took power after the Iranian Revolution; and second, she’s an outspoken woman who lived to tell about it.

Marjane Satrapi header

Marjane Satrapi was born in Iran in 1969 and lived in a middle-class family with highly educated parents in Tehran until 1983.  During her childhood, she was rambunctious, strong-willed and outspoken, and her family feared that her behavior (and mouth) would get her into serious trouble with the authorities, who had strict behavioral codes for women.  So, her family arranged to have her study in Vienna for high school.  She returned to Tehran after a near-deadly bout of pneumonia and stayed there for several years, but now lives in Paris with her husband.

Satrapi’s childhood and teenage years are detailed in her autobiographical graphic novels, Persepolis 1 and 2.  I loved them because she grew up in an entirely different world than I did (geographically, at least, which was fascinating in and of itself), but for all those differences, I could see ways in which she was no different from many of us growing up: questions, conceptions of right and wrong, repression (in her case the government, in my case, parents), and general teenage angst.  Half a world away, and it was like I knew her!

Marjane Satrapi - Michael Jackson

In 2007, Persepolis was made into a feature film and debuted at the Cannes Film Festival.  In 2008, it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, making Marjane Satrapi the first woman nominated for the category.  In 2011, her graphic novel “Chicken with Plums” was made into a live action movie as well.  There are several interviews with Marjane Satrapi about her work, but I found this one and this one to be very interesting – if you have the time, check them out.  And, below I’ve included the trailers for both Persepolis and Chicken with Plums.  Perhaps you will put them on your “to watch” list!