Chapter Six: Claude Monet

Black Cat In Monet’s Garden

When Claude Monet moved to Giverny in 1883, he was 43 years old and a recent widower with two children. His life, once so difficult he attempted suicide, impoverished and unrecognized, was beginning to turn around as he painted what would later be recognized as masterpieces in the years following his wife Camille’s death at 32.
But if the first half of his life had been marked by sorrow and hard times, the next 43 years would witness the opposite. Monet’s most iconic and valuable art was inspired by the gardens he not only painted, but also designed in Normandy. 
Black Cat in Monet’s Garden / © Deborah Julian

The first time I saw Claude Monet’s paintings, we were trying to take in as much of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City as we could consume in a single day. Discovered at the end of one second floor hallway, his giant canvases of lily ponds were the most beautiful art I’d ever seen.

Deep blues and greens offset with pinks and whites, pictures abstracted by Monet’s deliberate concentration on the quality of light in a single moment, they were immediately and simultaneously both real and unreal.
We went on to see art in as many of the great museums in the U. S. and Europe as we could make time for. We saw less known, local art in Seattle, emotionally charged paintings telling biblical stories in old churches in Rome, and modern art that rewarded you most when you worked at it in Washington and New York.
But in some ways, it is always in hope of repeating that Monet moment in New York. 
When it came time to merge a cat and Monet, Deborah picked the garden in Giverny as the most perfect place. She chose Billy because he’s the most obvious art lover among our cats.
We first noticed when Billy interrupted a nap on our antic hutch to stare at a Matisse print on the wall above it. He did it calmly as if appreciating something about it. He didn’t need a reason to enjoy something that wasn’t edible. 
And no, although we asked, Billy never made any effort to explain.
There was one other thing about Billy that made him perfect for the lily pond. He enjoyed looking at himself in the mirror as much as he enjoyed looking at Matisse. 
The experts will tell you, at least the majority will, that cats haven’t enough awareness of themselves as individuals to understand they are seeing reflections of themselves when they look into a mirror. Without wading into the science, I will say that, whatever Billy saw, he liked. 
When Billy wandered into Monet’s garden, making his way through tall grasses until he found a pink pond decorated with lily pads, it wasn’t water he wanted. As much as he loved drinking water, he loved gazing at himself as much, his image reflected back from the water in the way only Claude Monet could imagine. 


Chapter Five: Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso’s Cat Before a Mirror

You could have an interesting time and very likely get lost if you took a hike through the mind of Pablo Picasso. No guarantee the experience would be pleasant; in fact, you could probably take for granted that mostly it wouldn’t be.

Picasso was one of the most brilliantly creative artists who ever lived. From cubism to modernism, he was there at the creation of movements that might never have gotten off the ground without the infusion of his talents. 

Pick out any painting by Georges Braque, Picasso’s co-inventor of cubism. Look at it for a long time and try convincing yourself Braque’s style would have so shook the art world that painting was forever revolutionized. 

What the pair did was create images on canvas that showed viewers what an object looked like from multiple angles and dimensions, all coalesced on a flat surface. When they could just as easily have painted flowers in a pretty glass jar. 

Pablo Picasso was amazing for showing us the world in a way we would never otherwise conceive it, expanding our awareness of the world around us by lifting constrictions in space and time.

But for me, what really blew the lid off was when Picasso began slicing and dicing human psyches as if they were banjos and clown costumes. Not only did he aspire to give us a fuller picture on a single canvas, he did it with raw, honest insight into what makes each of us different from every other.

As a painter, he recreated our strengths and weaknesses, our pride and our fear, and so much more and got it all on one flat surface. Unlike expressionists who followed, Picasso’s pictures always looked like they might be about something recognizable.

In Girl Before a Mirror, he portrays Marie Therese Walter, his young lover, pondering her own

Cat Before a Mirror / © Deborah Julian

reflection. There are a million ways to interpret this painting, all of which might be right, but the one constant is that the mirror reflection isn’t much like the girl standing before it.

The Marie Therese that Picasso sees is soft and bright. The reflection she sees is dark, sad and even a little foreboding. To me, it looks like she, at least in this moment, sees an ugliness about herself that defies the reality that others see. An alternative interpretation is that she is projecting herself as aging in an unattractive way.

Cats know how beautiful they are and don’t get hung up on the vanity of it. Vanity implies doubt, right? Cats have no doubts. 

To complete Picasso’s Cat Before a Mirror, Sam had to climb a stool to get a look at himself in the mirror. Even projected into cubism, he seems pleased with what he sees. Or he might be wondering who the beautiful cat behind the glass is. 

True to Picasso, he shows us himself from multiple angles, all at once.

Chapter Three: Edouard Vuillard

Messing Around in the Office (Edouard Vuillard)

Visual artists have a knack for inventing new words to put their work in context. It’s as if their creativity spills over into the regular world where you and I live.

Edouard Vuillard, for example, lived in a particularly ripe time that included impressionism, cubism, fauvism, expressionism and more. It’s an impressive list and an exciting time for any painter to be alive.

The Office Cat / © Deborah Julian
But Vuillard dove even deeper. Like Pierre Bonnard, who you will meet later in this book, he was one of Les Nabis. Les Nabis? Nabi means prophet in both Arabic and Hebrew. More forerunners than profits, les Nabis were post-impressionists — there’s another one — inspired by Paul Gauguin’s (Ready?) synthetism. 

None of that explains what got Sam involved, although Elmer Fudd might describe him as a very “synthetive cat.” What got Sam’s attention was the last in an exhausting list of categories with which Vuillard was associated.

Edouard Vuillard was an intimist. 

The intimists were known for painting the types of interiors you’d see if you were a fly on the wall or as invisible as cats sometimes are. Pierre Bonnard was also an intimist, but more light bulbs and the curtains opened, and if you visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, you will find his paintings sharing rooms comfortably with Vuillard’s. 

Vuillard’s dark, fuzzy scenes represent the business ongoing in the home of his mother, a dressmaker and widow with whom he lived until he was sixty when she died. They are psychological, reflections of not just his domestic situation but his feelings about it. 

Here again, this is not what interested Sam. What interested him, or rather what bugged his feline sensibilities, were the staid surroundings, so quiet, nothing going on. Few cats enjoy the pleasures of staid as, for example, a turtle might.

Fidgety one day, Sammy decided that Vuillard’s mother’s office was too much of a still life, the venue of a fuss budget. Bouncing up on a table inside the frame, he seized on a pile of mail carefully stacked alongside some fabric samples and paperwork.

It just felt right to begin evacuating the mail, paperwork and samples, one at a time. In The Office Cat, you see him pausing just long enough to look to the floor, appreciating his work in progress. 

Chapter Two – Roy Lichtenstein #1

Cat Art Parody of a Parody (Roy Lichtenstein #1)

Roy Fox Lichtenstein is one of the most interesting and peculiar artists of the 20th Century. He had a long career of innovative artwork but is best known for a short burst of comic book parodies that became wildly popular in the 1960s, with three decades remaining to be spent in his studio.

Roy Lichtenstein’s Black Cat / © Deborah Julian
Lichtenstein drove some people crazy, much like Andy Warhol did, by painting pictures inspired by advertising and popular culture, parodies that were respectful takeoffs on a familiar medium. Others loved both artists’ work enough to make them rich and famous.

When Lichtenstein’s pioneering pop art paintings broke into the encrusted world of art in New York City, it was an odd event. His paintings, parodies of comic book pictures, were startling since they erupted out of a career previously devoted to cubism and expressionism.

He also had a keen, modernist’s eye for Sixties design and advertising.

Roy Lichtenstein’s Black Cat #1 is as much Billy’s opinion about pop art style as it is about cat art. Billy refuses to let the Ben-Day dots crawling up his side interfere with his chilling out on the painter’s very modernistic couch. 

Billy’s intense stare seems almost cynical. “Are you kidding me?” it says.

Or maybe it’s, “Why are you staring at me when I’m trying to take a nap?”
Lichtenstein went from pop art celebrity status to become one of the most exciting sculptors of his time. Borrowing from the splashy, basic colors of his paintings, his sculptures are fanciful abstract expressions that brighten public spaces around the world.

He also did parodies of classic paintings that updated the scenes in classic style. His Bedroom at Arles updates Van Gogh as a cartoon.

Some of his later work lets his sense of humor come through. Billy will take you into that a little later in the book.

10 Original Ways to See New York City

Street Life Photography View of New York City

Chinese New Year on 42nd Street / © Deborah Julian

What comes into your mind’s eye when you imagine New York City?

Times Square?

Central Park?

The Empire State Building?

Maybe, the Statue of Liberty?

So much of the city is iconic after decades on TV, movies and in advertising, like most people, you probably have a pretty good idea about what it looks like, probably more than one.

And whatever springs into view, it’s 100% accurate.

This city has so many faces,

But I want to show you some scenes that might be less familiar, although very much New York.

Those of us who live in the five boroughs know all those popular places too. We walk by them every day. Sometimes, we go inside. But for us, there is another New York City you begin to see only after you’ve been here for a while and the veneer has worn off, at least a little.

Sad to say, fascination with the Big Apple does thin after a while, and the reality of working and paying rents here, of going to restaurants and budgeting for Broadway shows, sets in. Don’t get me wrong. New York City is never like anywhere else.

It just becomes different in an equally fascinating, everyday way.

The following pictures are from the street photography of Deborah Julian. For additional information, click any image.

1. New York City Angst Splashed With Humor

I Can’t Grow Up / © Deborah Julian

I decided to start out with a picture from the Lower East Side that illustrates the condition from which you may feel yourself suffering after you’ve lived here for a while.

Among the many things it is, New York is a place that comes at you without pausing. The intensity fades sometimes but never goes completely away.

Some days, you might want to escape or just not face it.

I Can’t Grow Up pictures the anxiety, but it does so with so much brashness, you can’t ignore the humor.

2. New York City Disconnected

You wouldn’t think in a city as vibrant and full of things to do and see as New York that you’d have to have to dodge people with their eyes glued to cell phone screens or chattering away into headphones, but you do. Heads up, all the time.

The New Normal / © Deborah Julian

When I was a kid, one of the manners I was taught was to walk on the curb side of any woman or girl with whom I was lucky enough to be walking.

A guy was expected to take the splashes of rain and slush from buses and errant taxis.

But now, it’s reversed. I protect my wife by walking in the middle of the sidewalk, taking the blows of inattentive screen addicts against my much larger frame.

Some New Yorkers, especially the generation they call “millennials,” strike me (excuse the pun) as being disconnected through all their digital connections, distracted from the immediate world around them.

The New Normal illustrates that. Two women on cell phones lean against the railing in Carl Schurz Park, above the scenic Hell Gate waters, oblivious to each other and their surroundings.

3. Peace and Humor Among the Falling Leaves

It’s changed some in recent years as New York has become more of a year round destination, but there are a few times each year when Central Park is dominated by New Yorkers.

Everyone’s a Critic / © Deborah Julian

Families are out with their children. Everyone seems to feel at home. Tourists are fewer. Not that we don’t like tourists. We do. They pay a lot of bills in our city. But a break is nice too.

One of those times is the autumn, just before the crowds return for the holiday season and locals have returned from their own vacations.

In Everyone’s a Critic, you get a good look at the seasonal parade of New Yorkers in Central Park.

A number of Dads are out with their daughters as the leaves begin to change. Maybe it’s visitation day for divorced fathers. Anyway, this is where the humor comes in.

A living statue has perched along the walking trail, portraying a butterfly (I think). Now, look at the scrunched up faces of the young girls. They are decidedly unimpressed.

4. Walking the Midtown Maze

There’s a reason why Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration severely limited car traffic in Times Square. With 7th Avenue, Broadway and the cross streets from 37th to 42nd all delivering

Midtown Manhattan Transit / © Deborah Julian

buses, trucks, vans and cars into a mass of pedestrians, it was chaotic and dangerous.

Especially when you consider how many in that mass were being thrilled by the vivid digital advertising running 24/7 on so many billboards.

While adding more bicycled kiosks, Mayor Bill DiBlasio brought the city speed limit down to 25 miles per hour in an initiative to reduce pedestrian deaths to zero.

The congestion is one thing, but as you can see in Midtown Manhattan Transit, the intersections of crosswalks, turning buses, bicycles going wherever and in whatever direction they like is a continuous daily hazard we learn to expect and manage.

5. New Year in Times Square, the Other One – In February

As much a melting pot for cultures as it ever was, New York City is a place where you can ride an elevator and listen to casual conversations in several languages, none of them yours. I sometimes pass a long ride trying to identify the languages weaving around me.

Chinese New Year-Times Square / © Deborah Julian

The increasing Chinese presence in the city has meant, among other things, the shrinking of Little Italy as dim sum shops flourish on all sides and sidewalks busy with students transfixed by cellphone screens.

If you love Chinese food, heaven may be waiting for you in Manhattan.

Traditionally, one of the most visible ethnic festivals is Chinese New Year, celebrated on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month of the Chinese calendar, usually starting in February and lasting for about 23 wonderful days.

Our Chinese neighborhoods are rich with parades and fireworks. Chinese New Year-Times Square shows the celebration migrating west down 42nd Street with Chinese and American flags and a brass band on a rented bus in the snow.

6. The City Meets Its Match

Be honest now – have you ever imagined New York City being swallowed up in a thunderstorm?

In an exciting match of wills, Racing the Storm shows blackening clouds as menacing as anything in the Wizard of Oz building over the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Racing the Storm / © Deborah Julian

Because we live along the Atlantic Ocean, lasting floods are impossible except for hurricane storm surges, but when thunderstorms hit hard, they fill the streets with water racing toward overwhelmed drains.

Umbrellas are made useless by the steady winds caused by tall buildings and exaggerated by the storm.

An advantage of so many hard surfaces is that storms are forgotten quickly. And as long as you’re not on the water, as these boats racing for safety show, you’re not in much danger, no matter how wet you get.

7. Walls of Sexy Hair

Fifty years after her death, Marilyn Monroe‘s image seems undiminished.

Sexy Hair-Marilyn Monroe / © Deborah Julian

In an ad for Sexy Hair, a company selling products it claims make your hair sexy, a doctored photo of her tosses a sultry glare down a side street in Midtown Manhattan.

“Every woman wants to feel sexy so I put it in a bottle,” says Michael O’Rourke, the company’s founder, setting a new standard in clunky marketing phrases.

And it does seem odd in a city blessed with an abundance of sexy woman still working and living that they’d pick Marilyn Monroe as an icon. She’s a legendary beauty who, as a comic actress, played sexy for fun. But her own beauty eventually undermined her when she found it hard to get serious parts. Her career floundered.

Marilyn Monroe died a suicide after numerous unsuccessful attempts. Smart men adored her, but she couldn’t stay married. Her unhappy life ended in tragedy, making it all the more odd to find her image still in use, a half-century later, to sell the beauty that never did her enough good.

8. New York City In Ice

New York is known for finance, entertainment, glamour and more. One often overlooked segment is its industry.

The business of being a big city continues all year. Unseen by most visitors, tugboats make their way along the tidal straits separating Manhattan from the other boroughs. In Tugboat Winter, one tug pushes a tanker north through mid-winter ice along the East River while a second follows as a backup.

Tugboat Winter-East River / © Deborah Julian

The tanker itself symbolizes how invisible much of the city’s support systems and industries are. More than twenty feet of hit are hidden beneath the surface of the water. It’s held low by its cargo.

Knowing this, the powerful little tug is even smaller, a tiny concentration of power. Later, this tanker will make a return trip, empty, its hull towering high above its tugboat escort.

9. Fresh Air In an Unfresh City

When you visit, you may think of it as a tourist attraction, but for us Central Park is a people’s park, a relaxed zone that gets us away from the streets.

Day Dreamers-Central Park / © Deborah Julian

I’ll make a bet that, if you didn’t know this article is about New York City, you’d never guess that these girls are at ease on an autumn afternoon about one-hundred feet from Fifth Avenue.

Behind them, if they want to turn around, the girls can see the Sherry Netherland Hotel, the General Motors Building, with a packed Apple Store in front, and the Plaza Hotel.

But sheltered under Central Park’s old growth trees, they seem to find all they want in the calm reflections of The Pond, part of Olmstead and Vaux‘s original design for a retreat from city life.

Placed so central the city, Central Park offers the pleasures the girls enjoy all year. I’ve spent more hours than I can count wandering the trails. In times good or bad, like every other New Yorker, I can always go there to get refreshed.

10. Up, Up But Not Quite Away in New York City

Ballon Girl-Tribeca / © Deborah Julian

I decided to close like I started with something a little whimsical with an urban dose of grit.

Balloon Girl is a photograph from a summer day in Tribeca on Manhattans lower West Side.

That summer, an advertising promotion had balloon girls stationed all around the city, handing our
leaflets. For most, it was probably a freer than usual way to earn some extra money from a summer job.

I don’t think every one of them had legs as long and pretty as the balloon girl in Tribeca. Yet, oddly, no one seems to notice she’s there. It’s a phenomena in New York City that even the most striking of sights, in a bright pink dress and high heels, might as well be invisible.

You have to try hard to get noticed here, the background noise is turned up so high. By the look on this balloon girl’s face, she no longer has much taste for the effort.

I hope she was well paid.

I hope your image of New York City has been nudged just a little by Deborah Julian’s street photography. The city of eight million sometimes seems like it would take that many images to get the complete picture.

What image, seen here or anywhere else, do you think best represents New York City?

David Stone
Find all my books on my Amazon Author Page

Chapter One-Henri Matisse #1

Of Course He Is (Henri Matisse #1)

 When Henri Matisse painted La Danse (I) in 1909, for all its fame, it was only a compositional study for a more intensely colored final version to be completed the next year.

Against a simple, vivid background of blue and green, five ecstatic, naked — but not anatomically complete — female dancers whirl in a circle. Primitive in spirit, it’s often associated with Igor Stravinsky’s Dance of the Young Girls from The Rite of Spring, a ballet completed a few years later.

Can George be blamed for believing the dancers are excited about him, not just nature? He’d never been to the ballet or any pagan ritual.

Cat is Center of the Universe / © Deborah Julian
Out for a stroll one May afternoon in the wild, open fields of imagination, George stopped sniffing, and occasionally tasting, the grass, his attention stolen away by women without clothes moving to the flowing music of wind instruments.

Before he knew it, they were dancing around him. The world around them reduced itself to green grass and blue sky. In a perfect moment of joy, George became the center of the universe. 
I picked Cat is Center of the Universe to be first in this book of famous artists’ cats parodies because it hues so closely to the theme. 

Henri Matisse is recognized as one the greatest visual artists of the modern era. At home, he loved his cats, Minouche and Coussi. He posed for photographs with them, but there is nothing in the record that says their love for him had anything to do with art.

In Travels with George: Paris, George and Billy walk through the Louvre, unable to figure out people’s passion for paintings that don’t move and are not graced with interesting smells. Minouche and Coussi probably felt the same way.

Cat lovers joke that they are their pets’ servants. Cats, on the other hand, take it seriously.

In Cat is Center of the Universe, George demonstrates his preeminence, drifting off into dreamland while Matisse’s naked dancers spin by like galaxies and star clusters. 

Introducing Famous Artists’ Cats Book of Art

All About the Famous Artists’ Cats Book of Art

I could start writing about Famous Artists’ Cats almost anywhere. The art is timeless, and the cats? They don’t care as long they have something interesting to keep their lightning quick minds stimulated. 

Billy & George Explore
As you and I look at the often funny, sometimes beautiful pictures Deborah Julian dreams up when she puts cats and famous artists together and tells them to mix it up, we are going to jump around in time. We will abandon all ideas about order, as I believe cats do all the time, and follow their example in sticking with what feels most interesting in the moment.
Every cat I know hates boredom. Great art avoids it or fails to be great. They are meant for each other.

Even so, I have no choice but to begin somewhere. For this introduction, I’ll start at the beginning. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Of course I know that cats often make no sense at all as far as anyone can tell, a trait shared with a lot of art. But no cats, as far as I know, will be flipping the pages of this book. We humans are stuck with our storytelling heritage. I will ask, however, that if you meet any of our cats, you keep this topic out of the discussion.

Deborah Julian’s love for cats swelled into fascination with her first adoption, George, a rescue cat she carried home from the Humane Society on East 59th Street in Manhattan. We took the Roosevelt Island Tram over to volunteer as dog walkers on Saturdays. Our community on Roosevelt Island, a short hop halfway across the East River, banned dogs as part of its earliest development plans, spurred into such bad judgment by the pooper scooper wars that then raged in the city.

The “city of tomorrow,” as Roosevelt Island was expected to become, would not be littered with canine residue on every block. All that changed, but not in time to save our home from being ruled by cats.

We got our canine fix by leashing up the eager dogs housed at the Humane Society and taking them strolling around the neighborhood. Saddened at returning them to their cages, we soon got an itch to adopt an animal with whom we could share our home. 

A pair of longhaired dachshunds were almost enough to get us to break our lease, but a cat was our more sensible choice, and through his antic behavior, George made sure Deborah picked him. 

Whenever my wife wandered into his line of vision, George began whipping around the litter in his cage like he had committed his life to digging through to China. Fast. Then, once he had her attention, he looked her in the eye as if to say, “You’re here for me. Let’s go.”

George was a natural clown, and he was perfect for us.

Deborah’s love for art came first, although George soon made the competition fierce. It was inevitable, I guess, that they would merge.

But George was not her first model. While she knocked herself out with study and term papers,

Prepared to Help

working on her second degree, this time in art history, Deborah treasured his companionship.

While she pounded away on her word processor, her new best friend fought off sleep on the desk beside the clattering machine, once passing out with a shocking thump in spite of himself. 

Sometimes, he napped voluntarily, using the nearby telephone as a pillow.

But when it came time to create something that later evolved into her Famous Artists’ Cats series, George wasn’t considered. After all, he was already busy as an art history assistant. 

The original idea was simple enough. Our niece, a dancer, had a birthday coming up. Deborah decided to do something different, create a ballet-inspired birthday card, and include our niece’s recently adopted cat as a model. 

Punky is a golden tiger cat, making him an exciting match for Edgar Degas’s beautiful pastels of dancers in Paris. 

Deborah gave Punky a ribbon to play with and escorted him to the studio where Degas’s ballerinas were stretching on an exercise bar. Ballet Class Visitor grew to be one of her most popular works, but a few years passed before she realized the possibilities.

Put more clearly, it wasn’t until George had been joined by a second cat, Billy, that a bigger idea was forced on her.

Working on street photography, developing, cutting, matting, etc., she balanced her concentration between her projects and George and Billy’s desire to get involved, to “help out.”

Cats minds crave stimulation. Interaction with the world around them is as irresistible as it is for a child. Although many artists — Matisse, Picasso, Klimt, Klee and others — have openly loved cats and invited them into their studios, the interactions aren’t always seamless. Cats’ priorities conflict with the artists’. 

Cats, for example, will relax happily on any printed paper, including the photographic variety, laid flat in their realm.

One day, Deborah threw up her hands and wondered out loud, “What would famous artists do, if they had my cats?” 

It started out rhetorical but soon grew lively.