FRIDAY ART CAT: Federico Barocci (1535-1612)


Federico Barocci (1535-1612)

I was so lucky in 2012 to visit an exhibition at the National Gallery in London about Barocci, and I now have a cushion on my sofa with this on :-

Study of a Cat Sleeping

I think Barocci has perfectly captured the attitude of the cat sleeping – the head looks heavy on the surface, with the cat deep in sleep.  He has used red and black chalk on paper, rendering a soft powdery effect so good at depicting a cat.

About Barocci:

Highly revered by his patrons during his lifetime, Barocci combined the beauty of the High Renaissance with the dynamism of what was to become known as the Baroque, a genre he was instrumental in pioneering. From his earliest creations of the 1550s, he began to challenge pictorial convention by positioning his figures in dynamic spatial arrangements, anticipating by almost half a century the innovations of Baroque art.  He was an incessant and even obsessive draughtsman, preparing every composition with prolific studies in every conceivable medium.  Fascinated and inspired by people and animals, he infused his harmonious compositions with infectious charm and an unparalleled sensitivity to colour.

Spiritually attuned by nature, Barocci was predominantly a painter of religious subjects, his approach epitomising the clarity and accessibility required by a Catholic church, then in crisis.  Barocci’s unique warmth and humanity transformed familiar gospel stories and more unusual visions into transcendent archetypes with universal appeal.

Born in the Marchigian town of Urbino, Federico Barocci was one of the most talented and innovative artists of late 16th-century Italy. He flourished in a town that had become one of the great cultural centres of the Renaissance, and had also been the birthplace of his famous predecessor Raphael, by whom he was much influenced.  He emerged as a promising young painter and, in the 1550s, moved to Rome for further study.  During a second trip to Rome in the 1560s, Barocci lived and worked with a number of Rome’s leading painters.  After participating in a fresco project for Pope Pius IV in the Vatican, he was allegedly poisoned by jealous rivals during a picnic. Suffering severely and in need of recuperation, Barocci returned to Urbino in 1563, where he remained for the rest of his career.  When he died in 1612, he was not only among the highest paid painters in Italy, but also one of the most influential.

Many of Barocci’s most accomplished works remain in his home region of the Marches, Italy, on the altars for which they were made.  Consequently, his name has not acquired the broad recognition of distinguished predecessors such as Raphael and Michelangelo, or successors such as Rubens, who, with other Baroque artists, drew inspiration from his sumptuous colour palette, expressive compositions and innovative techniques.

The Madonna of the Cat, 1575

The Holy Family is represented with unusual informality and liveliness. John the Baptist holds a goldfinch, a traditional symbol of Christ’s Passion, teasing the cat shown in the left foreground. His reed cross rests against the wall. The Virgin appears prominently in the centre suckling the Child, while Saint Joseph stoops forward to observe the scene.  One theory on the meaning of this is that through the Baptist’s innocent game, the child becomes aware of mankind’s expulsion from Paradise, thus comprehending his future role as redeemer.  The cat, often wrongly associated with evil, is not specifically malevolent in this situation, but its reaction to the bird epitomises the disruption of the natural harmony that had reigned in God’s creation.

Detail of the Cat from “The Annunciation”

Studies of Cats

Inspired by Barocci:

I have made a 15 minute sketch of my Bengal cat, Pandora, in sepia black and white charcoal.  The main aim was not to ‘overdo’ the work, but to try and get the same ‘spare’ feeling of the Barocci’s study.


“Federico Barocci, Inspiration and Innovation in Early Modern Italy” edited by Judith W. Mann

Sara Day

I am an artist who makes work of animals and people.

Three cats live with me – Maine coon Orlando, Bengal Pandora and black moggy Rio.

Commissions, and indeed any enquiries – welcomed.

Instagram: Sardine.Art

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Views: 959

Friday Art Cat: Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen (1859-1923)

Friday Art Cat : Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen  (1859-1923)

I’ve been so looking forward to this, as this is one of the most famous and revered cat artists!

Swiss-born, multifaceted Steinlen—at once illustrator, painter, printmaker, and sculptor—spent most of his life in Montmartre, the picturesque epicenter of many avant-garde movements.

His best-known work—the cabaret advertisement La Tournée du Chat Noir, the 1896 poster featuring a black cat silhouetted against a burnt orange background—is now an icon of the “poster craze” circa 1900, and you can see it everywhere in Paris!

Steinlen experimented with a range of styles, such as Realism, Japonisme, Art Nouveau, and Post-Impressionism, over the course of his career.  As an artist he was not merely a commercial success but showed great sensitivity toward social issues. Besides illustrating advertisements for a variety of products, Steinlen was famous for his posters of cabaret and music hall performers. He also contributed a large amount of drawings and lithographs to the radical press publications, Pere Peinard, Les Temps Nouveaux and La Chambard.

Steinlen’s lithographs were reproduced upon thin newsprint in the journal by photography and typography with added captions.  His images were critical of social contrasts, which he depicted with a sure handed simplicity, fine imagery and stylistic elegance.  His wonderful use of line and design led to some of the most famous posters of his era.  Known as “the Millet of the Streets”, his influence was vast: among other artists both Toulouse-Lautrec and the young Picasso paid direct homage to his art.

Luckily for those in Richmond, Virginia, USA:  the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) museum is having an exhibition on him and his cats until May 13th 2018.

Inspired by Steinlen:

I was moved by Steinlen’s “Lait pur” poster to create a sketch with my three cats and my favourite drink in it !

Further Reading:

“Steinlen Cats” Drawings by Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen, published by Dover Art Library.

English paperback, 16 Feb 1981.


Sara Day

I am an artist who makes work of animals and people.

Three cats live with me – Maine coon Orlando, Bengal Pandora and black moggy Rio.

Commissions, and indeed any enquiries – welcomed.

Instagram: Sardine.Art

Views: 1155

Friday Art Cat – Andy Warhol (1928-1987)


Andy Warhol (1928-1987)

Did you know that Andy Warhol was a huge cat lover?

Best known of course for his Pop art, Warhol and his mother Julia Warhola both loved cats and had several of their own, all named Sam except for one called Hester.

Before Warhol became famous, he worked as a commercial illustrator and published a privately printed, 190 edition, book of cat drawings:  ’25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy’.

The “name” in the title instead of “named” was because of his mother who did the hand calligraphy of the title.  Warhol liked mistakes, so kept it!

This book is rare, but still available – have one for £110.

I was always fascinated by the colours Warhol used.  The Fauvists (eg Matisse) used non-representational colour and representational form to convey different sensations.  However, unlike the Fauve colours, Warhol’s Pop Art colours do not depict the artist’s inner sensation of the world. They refer to the popular culture, which also inspired Warhol to experiment with the technique of silkscreen printing, a popular technique used for mass production.

He developed different colour schemes for his artwork.  For example: a monochromatic colour scheme, meaning having tints and shades of just one colour; a complementary colour scheme, in which the colours used are opposite on the colour wheel; or an analogous colour scheme, wherein the colour scheme uses 3 to 5 colours adjacent to each other on the colour wheel.

In doing so, Warhol moved away from the elitist avant-garde tradition. Initially, many spectators received this new marriage between art and commodity culture with little enthusiasm.  Because of Warhol’s ability to take risks and experiment with context and colour, he remains a hugely influential artist long after his death.

Inspired by Warhol:

I found it quite difficult to create a cat in a similar way, as it is so unlike how I normally make work.  But here’s a cat in my favourite colour Tiffany blue, called Sam.  (Incidentally, Warhol produced Christmas cards for the Tiffany store.)


‘The Cat – 3500 years of the Cat in Art’ by Caroline Bugler

Sara Day

I am an artist who makes work of animals and people.

Three cats live with me – Maine coon Orlando, Bengal Pandora and black moggy Rio.

Commissions welcomed.

Instagram: Sardine.Art

Views: 1734