Lately, cats have been quite the topic around the house and around the art studio.
Some of you might have heard about “Isabella” — the cat we took in, having been told by a neighbor that she was “a stray cat that lives down in the sewers.” Well, as it turned out, Isabella was not a stray cat, she did not live in the sewer, and no, her name wasn’t really Isabella, but Chloe. Her rightful owner lives over on the next block. I won’t re-tell the whole story, but the owner came looking for her cat, and long story, short, Chloe/Isabella had to go back home.
The owner kept her inside for several days, but when the cat finally went out, she headed right back to our house. Once again we were confronted by a not-very-happy cat owner, and once again Chloe/Isabella had to return home.
For the last two weeks, the cat has been kept inside again. Only this morning did the owner allow her to go outside. Surprise, surprise… guess who was at our doorstep at 4:00 AM wanting in?
Meanwhile, after “losing” Isabella, my husband was… well, dare I say it? Devastated. Heart-broken. He loved Isabella/Chloe. So, I suggested we adopt a cat from one of the shelters. And thus it was that “Flower Child” came to be part of our family. We didn’t choose her name. It was her “shelter name” and we kept it. Here is her official “adoption” photo.
She came home with us two weeks ago, has settled in nicely, and yes, you might notice a strong resemblance to Isabella/Chloe. Well, you’d notice it if you saw a better picture of Chloe. Flower Child is what’s called a “dilute” calico, with lighter markings and more white than most calico cats.
Now that we have a cat that’s truly our own, Isabella/Chloe won’t be coming inside, but after a long chat with her owner a short time ago, we’ve agreed that Chloe is welcome to come and visit with us. That makes us happy, and it will keep the owner happy, too.
But while we’re happy, there was a bit of sadness recently when our daughter, Liz, lost one of her cats. I commemorated Diego with a watercolor for Liz. But, as they say, life goes on, and my life as an artist now goes on with a cat in the studio.
Flower Child enjoys being with me, so I’ve spent a bit of time “cat-proofing” the studio, keeping paints out of her path, and helping her understand that easels are not climbing towers for kitty cats. She’s checked out all the boxes and bins, and for the most part she’s content to curl up and sleep while I’m drawing and painting. I thought about writing a post on the topic of cats and art, but oh, my goodness! There is so much information out there, it would be impossible to even make a good summary. One of the things I will share is that artists tend to have cats around the studio more often than dogs. Cats, you see, are much more independent. They don’t require so much time and attention, and a cat will usually entertain itself while its artist owner is working.
Now, you might be scratching your head a bit, looking back at the title of the post, and wondering exactly where Gustav Klimt fits into this. Wonder no longer. Quite simply, he was a cat lover. He’s even been referred to as “the crazy cat lady of artists”, a title which might be partly due to his penchant for dressing in long, flowing muu-muu’s. (Under which, it is said, he wore nothing, but whether that’s true or not… well, probably so.)
One thing is certain. Klimt loved cats. In this photo, he’s seen holding Katze, one of his favorites. An art critic once recalled visiting Klimt’s studio and and being surrounded by “eight or ten mewing and purring cats.” The cats ran wild in the studio, never mind the sketches and other artwork. When questioned about it, Klimt’s reply was that “It doesn’t matter if they crumple or tear a few sheets — they piss on others, and don’t you know, that’s the best fixative.”
Yes, you read that right.
I’ve also read other versions of this tale in which it’s said that Klimt deliberately covered pages of his sketchbooks with cat urine. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. But I do know that I probably would have liked Klimt and his cats. Maybe he dressed weird, but that’s all right. Any man who will open his home — and in Klimt’s case, his studio — to his feline friends is I man I can admire.