A Life in Art

Beautiful Black Cat Admires His Reflection in Monet’s Garden

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About the black cat in Monet’s garden…..

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

By David Stone

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, began turning around.

He painted eventual masterpieces in the years following his wife Camille’s death at 32.  

But if the first half of his life was marked by hard times, the second saw the opposite. Monet’s most iconic and valuable art inspired by the gardens he not only painted, but also designed in Normandy.   

The first time I saw Claude Monet’s paintings, we took 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, giant canvases of lily ponds, the most beautiful art I’d ever seen.  

Deep blues and greens offset with pinks and whites. Pictures abstracted by Monet’s concentration on the quality of light, they were immediately and simultaneously real and unreal.  

We later saw art in as many of the great museums in the U. S. and Europe as possible.

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.   

Then, there was that black cat in Monet’s garden…

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 antique hutch to stare at a Matisse print on the wall above it. He did it calmly as if appreciating something about it. No reason for enjoying something not edible.   

And no, although we asked, Billy never explained.  

One other thing about Billy 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 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.   

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