Assorted Ideas

Famous Artists’ Cats: The Book

About Famous Artists’ Cats: The Book… The art’s timeless. The cats? They don’t care as long as something to keeps their lightning quick minds stimulated.

By David Stone

Look at the pictures Deborah Julian dreams up when she puts cats and famous artists together. She mixes them together, and we jump around in time.

We abandon ideas about order, as cats do all the time, and follow their example, sticking with what’s most interesting in the moment.

Related: Picasso’s Cat Before A Mirror 

Cats hate boredom. Great art avoids it or fails to be great. They’re meant for each other. 

For this introduction, I start at the beginning. Makes sense, doesn’t it? 

Of course, 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. 

Famous Artists' Cats: The Book
An education in art history flavored by a love of cats: Famous Artists’ Cats: The Book

Starting with a not so famous cat…

Deborah’s life changed forever with a rescue cat she carried home from the Humane Society.

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.

Part of its earliest development plans, spurred into bad judgment by the pooper scooper wars then raging 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 fixes by leashing up eager dogs housed at the Humane Society. We took them strolling around the neighborhood.

Saddened at returning them to their cages, we soon got an itch to adopt an animal we could share our home with.  

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 committed to digging through to China. Fast.

But who adopts who…?

Then, once he had her attention, he looked her in the eye as if to say, “You’re here for me. Let’s go.” 

A natural clown, George was perfect for us. Deborah’s love for art came first, although George soon made the competition fierce.

A merger was inevitable. 

But George was not her first model.

Knocking herself out studying and writing term papers, Deborah treasured his company. While she pounded away on her word processor, her new best friend fought off sleep on the desk beside the clattering machine.

Once, he even passed out with a shocking thump on the desktop.  

Sometimes, he napped voluntarily, using the nearby telephone as a pillow. But when it came time to create 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.  

Starting Famous Artists’ Cats: The Book

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, escorting him to the studio where Degas’s ballerinas stretched on an exercise bar.

 Ballet Class Visitor grew to one of her most popular works, but a few years passed before she realized the possibilities. More clearly, when George welcomed a second cat, Billy, a bigger idea arrived. 

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

Cats 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 — openly loved cats and invited them into their studios, interactions aren’t always seamless.

Cats’ priorities conflict with the artists’.  

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

It was inevitable.

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

It started out rhetorical but soon grew into lively art.

The inevitable result of cats plus fine art.

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