Talking about Art

Pet Loves in the modern age

This part two of photo-essay on great artists who have either painted their pets, or other people’s pets as a way of proving that pets are a proper subject for serious artists.

Mexican artist Frida Kahlo had many pets and they frequently appeared in her biographical portraits. In the case of her deer she identified so closely with the creature she painted herself as a hunted deer.

Salvatore Dali had some strange pets and he used them for publicity (hence the anteater in Paris) as much as anything else. I don’t think he cared much for cats (see the amazing photo below) however, some dogs did feature in his surrealist paintings.

 

I was going to say that fellow Spaniard, Pablo Picasso, clearly did not like cats, either.

However, I suspect, Like many cat owners, he was ambivalent about cats’ hunting skill and their drive to kill, even when they are well fed. Perhaps that was why he was fascinated by a cat’s encounter with a lobster, which he painted several times. However, a number of much less vicious cats, kittens in fact, also appear in his paintings.

If we look at the photographic evidence it seems clear that Picasso clearly liked both cats and dogs. His absolute favourite dog was a Dachshund called, Lump.  “Lump had an absolutely pampered life there. Picasso once said, ‘Lump, he’s not a dog, he’s not a little man, he’s somebody else.’ Picasso had many dogs, but Lump was the only one he took in his arms.”

And pampered Lump clearly was. He died ten days before Picasso, on 29 March 1973.

Talking of dachshunds. I love the Italian futurist Giacomo Ball’s Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash, painted in 1912. Look at that tail go!

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Ammerican pop artist, Andy Warhol was also a fan of dachshunds.

British painter David Hockney is also a massive fan of the short-legged pooches.

British painter, Lucien Freud was famously fond of dogs especially his pair of whippets whom he often painted.

American artist Andrew Wyeth painted a number of beautifully atmospheric paintings of his Labrador-type dog.

Time for some cat lovers, I think. Less well known, is the British artist Ruskin Spear who painted many wonderful pictures of his cats.

Another, lesser known British artist, Beryl Cook, painted some fabulously plump cats to go with her full-of-life people.

More cats and a lobster, only this time the lobster is outnumbered.c1977-beryl-cook-signed-lithograph-print-four-hungry-cats-01_01 (1).jpg

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is another cat lover. He lives with about 40 of them in his Beijing home.

Swedish artist Benjamin Björklund paints very beautiful and atmospheric portraits of both humans and animals. He is interested in the emotional states of his subjects, whether they are his members or (his Great Dane), his pet rabbits, mice, rats, and guinea pigs, as well as the wild animals outside.

I’ll end with Jeff Koons. The American artist is known for working with popular culture subjects, and he has also used as dogs as subject matter in his work. “Balloon Dog (Orange)” sold for $58.4 million at Christie’s. ” Possibly, his reproductions of banal objects such as balloon dogs should prove that animals are an uncool subject matter?

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Balloon Dog

And yet “Puppy” his installation of  flower-filled a giant West Highland Terrier is pretty awesome. I think that it honestly doesn’t matter what you paint, cats, dogs, cows or people but how you approach your subject that matters.

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16 replies »

  1. I have to chuckle at the depictions of cats in Pablo Picasso’s paintings. Perhaps he was scratched by one once 😉 So nice to see all of the animals and how they were loved by the artists!

  2. A lovely collection. Thank you so much for including my favourite, Wyeth’s dog on the bed. I have a bestia over here sleeping in the exact same position. I also love the Swede, let me remember his name. Benjamin Björklund, yeah.

    • Thank your the Wyeth tip -they are beautiful and still paintings. I think that Benjamin Bjorklund is a truly fabulous artist. I have only recently come across him.

  3. This is such an interesting post. I loved seeing the artists and how they painted pets. I did not know Ai Weiwei was a crazy cat person! I saw his exhibition at the RA a couple of years ago. I was very moved by it. And Jeff Koons……I saw an exhibition of his about a year ago in a gallery in South London. I found that very entertaining. Our son is a visual art enthusiast and has memberships in many galleries and always has things for us to see when we visit.

    • You are very lucky as I haven’t seen any of these artists’ works in real life ( although I have seen a Picasso). I’d love to see Jeff Koon’s “Puppy”.

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