Japanese Woodblock Prints
Much like Chinese paintings, Japanese woodblock prints, or Ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating world”), have frequently featured feline iconography for hundreds of years.
The ways in which cats are depicted in woodblock prints widely vary. Many pieces, for example, simply show cats in domestic settings. In these works, the animals are accents, as the interior scenes appear to be the prints’ primary focus. Similarly, some prints explore the relationship between the cats and their owners—namely, beautiful female figures. In addition to these everyday portrayals, woodblock prints also often feature felines dressed and behaving as people. These personified cats offer a comical twist on both cat art and the Ukiyo-e practice.
Fin de siècle Posters
In addition to can-can dancers and cafés, French fin de siècle posters also often feature an unlikely subject: felines. Adorning everything from cabaret flyers to tea advertisements, cats constantly pop up in these beautiful Belle Époque posters.
Similar to the pets portrayed in Ukiyo-e prints, the cats depicted in these turn-of-the-century designs are conveyed in a range of ways. In some, they are prominently presented as the main subject. In others, they simply emphasize the domesticity of the scene, highlighting the homey appeal of the advertised product.
Given the popularity of our feline friends, it is no surprise that today’s top artists often opt to incorporate cats in their oeuvre.
Much like the contemporary art movement itself, these depictions are diverse and eclectic. Spanning all sorts of materials, mediums, and styles, these purr-fect portrayals prove that cat iconography is here to stay.