If Instagram had been around during ’s
lifetime, you can be sure his feed would have been filled with cat photos. His three cats—Minouche, Coussi, and La Puce—were never far from him while he painted. Likewise,
kept his Siamese friend Minou close beside him, and
famously owned a ocelot named Babou (both cats may well have become feline influencers like Maru or Lil’ Bub).
Indeed, many of art history’s famous artists have taken comfort in the companionship of cats; they, too, have abided by the demands of such charming yet fickle creatures.
In the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art—which houses documents, photographs, and diaries that paint a broader picture of the lives of artists—there are, unsurprisingly, a large number of cat photos. The curator of manuscripts, Mary Savig, recently dug deep into the Smithsonian’s vaults and published a compendium of these images in the book Artful Cats
But the project didn’t begin as a concerted effort to uncover the felines that influenced famous artists. In the foreword, Smithsonian Archives of American Art director Kate Haw writes that the book was “inevitable” based on the popularity of cats—not just on the internet (she points to Grumpy Cat’s 8.5 million followers), but in the Smithsonian’s own library, too. Based on its collection, artists seem to favor cats over other pets: While ’s
pet crow, Caw-Caw, makes an appearance, as does ’s
daschund, Archie, it’s “cats that rule the Archives,” Haw notes. Here, we share excerpts from Artful Cats
, highlighting 10 famous artists and their cats.