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Field News
29 Apr 2020

From the Collection: Cats

Artists have used cats in every kind of pose in every kind of medium. From paintings to quilts to chalkware, a cat is often included as the companion of an adult or child but can also appear as the sole subject. At AFAM, the feline has even been the focus of an exhibition: American Cat-alogue: The Cat in American Folk ArtHere is a selection from the collection: 

In Mother Cat with Kittens, Morris Hirshfield depicts four white cats standing or lying on a burgundy rug. The fur, faces, positions, sizes, and tail shapes vary, lending interest and animation to the scene. Curves, multiple textures, and rhythmic patterning prevent stasis in the surrounding areas as well. The wave-shaped rug is enlivened by its dotted pattern, and its thin green-and-white-striped border seems to keep the animals in place. Surrounding the rug is a green background punctuated by painterly yellow slashes that change direction at a central axis. 

A bright tabby cat rests on the lap of Mrs Keyser, the subject of this portrait by an unidentified artist from the 19th century. The cat is held by impossibly small hands, and a ribbon of space appears between Keyser’s sleeve and waist, reminiscent of the technique employed by Samuel Addison and Ruth Whittier Shute

Pictorial appliqued and embroidered crib quilts became popular in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Frequently, they were inspired by designs printed in magazines or available as kits, and sometimes the patterns were adapted from children’s literature. This precious example depicts a dog and a cat in conversation. 

Want to learn more about cats in the AFAM collection? Start here.