Sunday, July 19, 2015

Pierre Bonnard Cats, an Impressionist Afternoon

After Lunch with Pierre Bonnard / © Deborah Julian

Pierre Bonnard Cats

French impressionist Pierre Bonnard didn't paint many cats, at least not as many among his canvases as I'd have liked.

Bonnard is one of my favorites. So are cats. I wish they'd gotten together more often.

Bonnard's artwork is enhanced by his practice of taking photographs he could work from slowly and deliberately, instead of relying on live models.

The results are lush, colorful paintings that show how his methods gave his brilliance free rein to create.

The White Cat is his best known cat painting. It's an early work, though, finished before his colorist abilities were well-developed. It's still shows a wonderful awareness of what it means to be a cat.

Later, Bonnard depicted his family's pets, then thriving in his country home. Most often, the dogs got the best of the show, but if you're lucky enough to spend as much time looking at Bonnard's work as I have , you find cats inside the tapestry-like pools of mingling colors too.

It's all in the nature of the beasts. Dogs are out there brazenly looking for attention while cats make you earn it. Or maybe they shared a belief that, in photography's earliest days, an image captured  sucked away their souls.

Cats certainly don't feel that way now. They must have gotten over their inhibitions. Almost every one of them I know is either a camera hog or indifferent in pursuit of something grander, like string.

After Lunch with Pierre Bonnard

Call After Lunch with Pierre Bonnard a corrective, a decision by cat artist Deborah Julian to right a wrong. It's neither thing, of course, but both sound so much more heady than the truth.

The "truth" is that Deborah began creating her Famous Artists' Cats as a way of easing domestic tensions.

Working as a fine art photographer, she battled in turf wars with her cats, George and Billy, retarding her ability to create, print, cut and mat her street photography. Both found her efforts so interesting, the needed to help or at least inspect the activity closely.

At the intersection with her education in Art History, she asked herself, what if famous artists had my cats?

A simple question launched a cat art project that has gone on to include multiple parodies on Matisse, Degas, Lichtenstein and Bonnard as well as Monet, Van Gogh and Cézanne. Among them, After Lunch with Pierre Bonnard is one of the best.

Deborah makes full use of the richness in Bonnard's colorful palette as she finds a place at the table for Sam and Billy. The family has finished eating and gone off for strolls and naps, leaving the palace in the hands, excuse me, paws of the cats.

The color and composition in the picture are thrilling to look at. As wall art, it's as interesting to me as the non-parody artwork by Rauschenberg, Boborelus and Popoius we already have hanging in our home.

What kinds of art do you enjoy seeing on your own walls?

David Stone
Find all of my cat books, including Deborah Julian's illustrations, on my Amazon Author Page.