Volume I, Number 6, Spring/Summer 2006


© Copyright 2005


Cats as Artists

Cat's Cradle
by Tara Nollet

Believe it or not: Cats can paint!
. . No, I haven't gone off the deep-end. Your purring pal may be the next Picasso!
. . Biologists believe the phenomenon is an instinctive form of territorial marking behaviour. Yet, evidence also suggests that some feline creations are aesthetically driven, and should be interpreted as works of art!

Painting Cat from the Middles Ages

Kitty art history 101
. . The 1990 discovery of the circa 3000 BC Aperia Cats, Etak and Tikk, (buried with their paw-painted funerary scrolls!), gave researchers conclusive proof that cat-marking behaviour was revered by ancient Egyptians for spiritual and artistic reasons.
. . During the Middle Ages, creative cats were associated with the devil, and many suffered violent fates as a result.
. . Feline art was trivialized in Victorian times, and many a gifted kitty was forced to perform in sensationalist vaudeville shows.

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. . .. . .Cat Mummy with Scroll. . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . ... . . . .. . Victorian Painting Cat

Back to the future
. . Traditional biologists are reluctant to concede that cat painting is artis-tically motivated. Instead, they prefer a more scientific theory.
. . Domestic cats mark territory with their feces or urine, and often indicate its position with lines radiating out from it. These marks remain visible to other cats long after the scent has faded. Some vertically extend this demarcation (on a tree trunk or wall) with earth or litter. Acrylic paint contains ammonia which smells like cat urine. Therefore, felines which dip their paws in colours, may simply be marking boundaries (ie. paper, canvass) in a more unusual fashion!
. . The Museum of Non-Primate Art (MONPA), in Britain, is an international research organization made up of zoologists, art historians, art critics, and biologists who study the art of non-primate species as a mode of aesthetic communication.

I'm not joking!
. . Original investigations focused on the creative abilities of moles (tunnelling patterns), stallions (pyramidic dung piles), and birds (flying formations as performance art). During the 1980s, a separate division was created to research, curate, and preserve feline art.

Monty's Painting

Show me the money
. . Quirky cat collections grace the walls of galleries worldwide. Some paint-ings fetch up to $19,000.! However, Bud D. Holly, a talented tabby in California (where else?), creates modest works of art which sell for $15.-$250. His owner, Sharon Flood, taught her furry proteg‚ how to walk across a selection of non-toxic water-colours after she noticed his muddy paw-prints on her glass table!

Why Cats Paint by Heather Busch

Worth a thousand words
. . Why Cats Paint: A Theory of Feline Aesthetics, written by Heather Busch and Burton Silver, is an international bestseller which accounts for the current craze in cat creativity. Brace yourself! In addition to exploring the history, theory and practice of feline art, the book contains startling photographs of paint-splattered cats at work on their colourful projects. According to the authors, couch scratching and mouse baiting are also legitimate means of artistic expression!

Here's the scoop...
. . Can all cats paint? No. Although 60 per cent of domestic cats will mark territory (ie, your leather couch), only 0.001 per cent will need a beret and palette. Don't despair - Morris may become the next Matisse with a little encouragement!
. . Which breeds are artistically inclined? Cats which don't mind getting their paws wet, such as Birmans, might be more likely to paint.
. . How can I tell if my furrball has talent? Observe your cat. Does she contem-plate the marks she makes in her litter box? Are the lines curved or aesthetic? Does she scratch the wall with litter left on her paws? Does she attack your furniture in one spot, as if creating a work in progress? Does she take pride in arranging her prey or parts of it? Does she like to play and create pat-terns with her kibble? Does she watch television and recognize other animals on the two-dimensional screen? Will she sniff out a cat food advertisement in Cat Fancy magazine? Does she make territorial claw marks on trees? Does she show interest if you mark the same places she does? Yes, that's an odd concept! (Each 'yea' is worth 10 per cent. Six 'yays' gives Puss a 60 per cent chance of dabbling in the fine arts!)
. . How can I encourage my cat to paint? To get your kitty's creative juices flowing, leave a saucer of non-toxic, scented acrylic paint (room temperature) near her litter box with an absorbent sheet of smooth board. Mix a few drops of urine in the paint to encourage marking behaviour. The moment Fluffy manipulates the paint, she's making her first artistic gesture!

It's in the cards
. . Are you still uncertain of whether your buddy is an artist waiting to be discovered? Don't sweat it. The folks at MONPA have designed Test Your Cat's Creative Intelligence: Eighteen easy-to-use cards, which measures kitty's talent through colour composition, brain dominance, ink blot, colour blindness, and optical sensation tests.

Artistic licence
. . The jury is still out as to why some cats paint. Is Puss trying to represent an object or emotional state? Does she need to explore her inner feelings? Is she communicating with us or another cat? Or, as many sceptics believe, is she simply marking her territory in a flamboyant fashion? The medium contains a mysterious message...

Museum of Non Primate Art

This is a must see site for lots of images of Animals as Artists and their work.

Check out the Videos of Cats Painting.

Feline Art Galleries
The Philip Wood Gallery

. . When the Philip Wood Gallery in Berkeley, California opened its doors in the fall of 1994 it had on show the first international exhibition of paintings and works created by cats - complete with Artist in Residence, Buster.
. . Gallery owner Philip Wood was keen to reverse the blinkered view held by most scientists and art historians which had determined that the marks that cats had been making with paint and other media for centuries were territorially motivated rather than having any aesthetic intent.
. . Philip Wood co-opted the assistance of leading cat-art expert Heather Busch to both curate the exhibition and to be on hand to answer the many questions which they knew would be raised. The show was an instant success, several visitors even turned up with their cats to get first hand advice regarding painting techniques and to present their cats with positive role models.
. . The Gallery, which is situated on the corner of Solano and Modoc, is open on weekends until the end of 1995 when the exhibit will travel to Europe. Some merchandise is available at the Gallery, including a Limited Edition Print of "Beam Me Up" a famous piece of work by world renowned cat artist, Orangello.

Ichon Gallery
. . An important exhibition of art by European cats will open on February 23rd at the Villa Ichon Gallery in Bremen. For more information contact Dr Klaus Hübotter, Tel: 0421 321803 or fax: 0421 326959.

Why Cats Paint
written by George Crowe on Friday, December 04, 1998

. . Why do cats paint? Apparently, it has to do with marking territory, and with the fact that acrylic paint smells a little like cat urine. Not all kitties do it. In fact, only a very small percentage seem to have artistic aspirations. But the ones that do put paw to canvas can command top dollar for their work. If you think your cat's got what it takes, you can buy a test to measure its creativity. Who knows? That little guy that climbs your drapes could be the next Picatsso.

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