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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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: The Background Story to Custom Cats by Rolfe Mooney


There is so much I love about cats – their movement, their affection, their softness, they don’t bark at you. Cats have always been part of my life, as a child I used to greet every moggy I met. I had my first cat at 3 years old. I was the quiet middle one of 3 boys, the cat was my best friend.

I have found great joy and comfort through painting and sculpture. I’ve struggled with anxiety and bouts of depression all my life due to severe dyslexia, which wasn’t diagnosed until I took an Art Foundation Course at the age of thirty. (Words and letters move around on the page making reading and writing very problematic and until recently I’ve spent most of my life trying to hide the fact that I can’t read and write). While on the foundation course I discovered that I had a gift for ceramic sculpture and I went on to do a Figurative Art course at Stafford.

One of my many interests in art is simplifying things down to their bare essentials while still maintaining the same amount of information. A bit like a poet is able to take a paragraph and reduce it into a sentence that still retains the original meaning.

My journey with art and cats began when I was assisting at a nursery school encouraging three and four year olds, to create pictures of animals. While the dogs all looked entirely different and were not always recognizable as dogs, the cats were all unmistakably cats and had the same characteristics. It inspired me to try to capture the “ESSENCE OF CAT” in a simplified form.

My first subject was Ricky my landlady’s cat. He was a huge black and white grumpy lovable character, who used to drape himself over my legs while I attempted to draw in the armchair. He is the cat on my Logo and is the inspiration for all the black and white cat reliefs I have produced to promote Custom Cats. When Ricky died, as part of my grieving process I did a painting of him, featured in the garden where he lived. Years later at the passing of my own “Fat Cat”, a beautiful gentle ginger and white Tom, I started on “The Big Blue Cat Painting” which is over 6’x4’ and difficult to transport, so I’ve had prints made into greetings cards. But it was only when I sculpted “Fat Cat” in a 3D relief that I found the stylized childlike form made me smile and sadness turned to joy when I looked at it.

So in the hope that others will enjoy my reliefs enough to buy them, ‘Custom Cats’ has been birthed, with the help of two of my literate friends. Reliefs of penguins and fish are also available on my website, but it’s creating customized cats for people, that brings me most pleasure.

I am not trying to create cat portraits because I cannot know the cat as well as the owner and feel I could not do it justice. I paint the cat’s markings from photographs the customer sends me onto the generic ‘essence of cat’ shaped clay tile which I have designed and hand made, each painted relief takes many hours to produce. My hope is that whether I create a stylized representation of a living cat, or a memorial to a deceased companion, it will generate a smile and a happy feeling in the owner that maybe a photograph alone will not.

Rolfe Mooney

We regularly write about all things relating to cats on our Blog Katzenworld!

My partner and I are owned by three cheeky cats that get up to all kind of mischief that of course you’ll also be able to find out more about on our Blog

If you are interested in joining us by becoming a regular contributor / guest author do drop me a message.

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