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Fat cats meet art and history: A look at the trend that has taken over the Internet

Love them or hate them, but you can’t ignore them. For the past few years, if there is one animal that has taken over the Internet, it’s the cat. Here’s a look at fat cats in art and popular imagination.

art and culture Updated: Jan 31, 2018 16:54 IST
Abhinav Verma
Abhinav Verma
Hindustan Times
Fat Cat Art,Cat Art,Cat Artists
Barbershop with Monkeys and Cats is a painting by Flemish artist Abraham Teniers (1629-70).

It’s not your friend’s pictures or posts; it’s not memes about your favourite football team, it’s not even the current news that dominates the Internet like a humble house cat does. Cats, especially fat cats, are the ones that ought to be crowned the kings and queens of social media. However, cat art was popular throughout history, much before cat memes and pictures became the ‘it’ thing. From old paintings to the latest cat art, cat artists such as the Brit Susan Herbert, and Russian Svetlana Petrova, have re-imagined famous art works with cats. These classic cat art pieces are now the toast of social media.

What’s cat art?

According to the Internet, cat art can be defined as the portrayal of cats in illustrations, paintings, sculptures, pictures, or even memes. Russian artist Svetlana Petrova and British artist Susan Herbert are the most popular cat artists in the world now. They started a few years back, but it’s only recently that the Internet has taken notice of them, and their artwork is now going viral, big-time.

Through the lens of history

Barbershop with Monkeys and Cats

Barber Shop with Monkeys and Cats, Abraham Teniers (1629-70).

This masterpiece was created by the Flemish painter Abraham Teniers in the 16th century. Teniers was a master in scenery paintings. Here you can see monkeys serving cats, who are their masters here. The cats are nonchalantly seated in a saloon and seem to be getting ready for a gala in the evening. Cats are royal indeed.

Dali Atomicus

Dali Atomicus, Salvador Dalí and Philippe Halsman (1948).

In 1948, Spanish Maestro Salvador Dalí, in collaboration with the American photographer Philippe Halsman, came up with this stunning creation. There’s something jawdropping seeing a cat leap and Dali and Halsman managed to capture three black cats in mid-air.

Child With Cat

Child With Cat, Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1880-81).

There is something serene and comforting about petting a cat. This simple yet elegant painting in 1880 by the French impressionist artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir captures happiness that only felines can give to human beings.

Putting the cat in the art

Russian artist Svetlana Petrova’s artwork, featuring her big ginger cat Zarathustra, has been a hit online all over the world. She started her project Fat Cat Art and her website by the same the name. She’s got millions of followers. Her artwork involves integrating classic historical artworks with cats. Petrova has also recently recreated recent popular scenes from famous TV shows such as Game of Thrones with cats.

Petrova’s re-creation of French artist Édouard Manet’s (1863) famous painting — Olympia — with her gorgeous ginger cat, Zarathustra. (Fat Cat Art)
The Creation of Adam by the legendary Italian Michelangelo (1511-1512) depicts the Biblical genesis of man. Flipping that narrative, Petrova ingeniously makes us question as to whether the cat come first or man. (Fat Cat Art)

British Artist Susan Herbert, who is a contemporary cat artist, launched her book Cats Galore: A Compendium of Cultured Cats in 2015 that showcased depictions of cats in scenes from art, theater and film. From feline version of Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music (1965) to Charlie Chaplin in the Tramp (1915) to The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli and Ophelia by John Everett Millais — her book has it all for cat lovers.

The Mona Lisa by Italian Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci (1503) is perhaps the most popular painting in our history. Susan’s rendition turns the woman into a fat cat. Fantastic, isn’t it? (© 2015 The Estate of Susan Herbert)
Imagine the 1965 Hollywood classic The Sound of Music re-imagined with a cat. What if Julie Andrews (the lead actor) was a cat? A singing cat in a musical like The Sound of Music would have taken over social media in this day and age. (© 2015 The Estate of Susan Herbert)

The latest in line — Cats in popular imagination

Popular TV shows and movies such as Game of Thrones, House of Cards and Avengers were recently given the feline makeover. Re-imagined movie and TV show posters with cats is the rage on social media right now.

Flying dragons were replaced by a fire-breathing cat in Game of Thrones, and we love it. (Fat Cat Art)
Anyone for cat-vengers? This poster shows different kinds of cats as superheroes.
House of Cards or House of Cats? Obviously, the latter. Brought to you by Petflix.

The scene in India

We already have cafés dedicated to cats and dogs in various cities, where cat art is gaining prominence. Nayani Tandon, who is the owner of The Puppychino Café in Shahpur Jat, New Delhi, says, “Cat art seems to be a wacky concept. The cats command the composition and give a completely new and previously unimaginable meaning to the art”.

Mr Toffee Tinkerbell, fashion designer Nida Mahmood’s cat, often features in her creations.

And we have our own cat artists, too. Over the past few years, fashion designer Nida Mahmood has been creating cat art inspired by her own cat. “ My love for my beloved cat Mr Toffee Tinkerbell initiated it for me. I started making fun graphics inspired by him. I even created the concept and branding of my restaurant around him only,” says Mahmood. Cat Café Studio in Andheri West, Mumbai, inspired by cat art, have now announced their own independent cat art project. Assistant manager Shripad Bandekar says, “We’ve always focused on art and cats. We’ll be coming with a project like no other soon, which promises to be a unique blend of cats and art.”

First Published: Jan 31, 2018 16:53 IST