“Famous Artists and their Cats – A Feline Inspiration,” Interview with author, Alison Nastasi

Like the rest of us mortals, artists own pets. Some have dogs, others take care of parrots, but an impressive number of painters, sculptors, photographers we all adore is owners to those enigmatic, furry animals known as cats. In fact, there are so many of them that an entire book could be written on the subject – and so it was, by Alison Nastasi, in a publication simply titled Artists and Their Cats. Accompanied by a series of photographs of the most famous figures in modern and contemporary art with their cats, the book surveys the roles felines played in their lives, and even the way they affected the practice and artwork of these artists – after all, felines have been a subject in the arts for centuries now. Think Pablo Picasso, who portrayed women with cats both in 1900 and 1964, for instance, or Paul Klee, whose most notable work perhaps is a portrait of a cat and a bird, or Balthus and Andy Warhol, both of whom dedicated multiple drawings and even entire artist books dedicated to the animal.
But what came over Alison Nastasi to write Artists and Their Cats in the first place? Why were cats so important to these men and women? Of this and more, we talked to the author in an exclusive interview. Have a read below!

 “Famous Artists and their Cats – A Feline Inspiration”

‘Widewalls Editorial: Interview with author, Alison Nastasi’

Artists and their Cats – John Cage

Artists and Their Cats by Alison Nastasi

Widewalls: You explored the world of artists and cats in your recent book titled Artists and Their Cats. Can you introduce it to our readers? How did the idea of writing this book come to be?

Alison Nastasi: Several years ago, I wrote an article about artists and their cats for Flavorwire.com, where I am the weekend editor. The idea came to me after reading about Tracey Emin’s cat Docket, who is featured in some of her work. The art editor at Chronicle Books spotted my listicle and asked me if I would be interested in expanding the subject for a book. I loved the idea, because, in addition to being a writer, I’m also an artist who keeps cats as pets. They’ve been a constant part of my time working in my studio.

Widewalls: How long have you researched this topic, and what sources did you use? How difficult was it to obtain all the materials?

AN: A lot of time went into curating the right selection of images. I wanted a mix of artists who most people would know – like Salvador Dalí, who is on the cover with his pet ocelot, Babou – and a few I might be able to introduce to certain audiences, like Claude Cahun. Diversity was extremely important to me when choosing artists.

The writing and research took a few months. Everyone I reached out to was very helpful. I corresponded with Georges Matisse, who is the great-grandson of the famous Henri Matisse, about the elder Matisse’s cats. Donna Van Der Zee, the widow of  Harlem Renaissance photographer James Van Der Zee, told me about his photo session with Jean-Michel Basquiat. Laura Kuhn, the director of the John Cage Trust, worked closely with Cage during his life and shared some personal stories. Their information was fascinating and indispensable.

Widewalls: There is an impressive list of names in it. Most of them are well-known and world-famous artists. What drew them to adopt a feline friend, in your opinion?

AN: Artists tend to spend long stretches of time alone so they can stay focused on their work. Many artists do this while locked away in a studio. Cats bring a certain energy to a space, but they’re generally independent creatures. This makes them the perfect companion for the artist. Both can cohabitate peacefully without making demands on the other.

Widewalls: Do you have a favorite from the book?

AN: It’s difficult for me to choose just one favorite, but I remember how much Burroughs’ photo and message about love, which is quoted in the book, moved me. I wrote Artists and Their Cats shortly after both of my cats passed away.

I think each photo captures a part of the artist’s personality. There’s just something really adorable about seeing an iconic artist turn to mush when their cat is around – like the photo of Hermann Hesse crawling around on the ground with one of his cats.

Left: Philip Burne Jones / Right: Florence Henri

Inspired by Felines

Widewalls: Can you tell us some of the anecdotes from the book? How did some of the artists interact with their cats?

AN: Dalí, who was a complete exhibitionist, would bring Babou to public places. Imagine eating dinner next to a 30-pound ocelot on a leash near your table. People would often panic, which amused him.

At one time, Andy Warhol had 25 cats in his New York City apartment.

Ai Weiwei’s cats can be seen in the documentary Never Sorry. They roam around his studio in Beijing. One of them can even open doors.

Widewalls: Is there any story of an artist being directly inspired by their cat, and how did this inspiration manifest in art?

AN: Oh yes, I think most of the artists included in the book were directly inspired at one time or another.

Warhol wound up writing a book called 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy. (“Name” is not a typo, either. His mother did the lettering for the book and accidentally left the “d” off the word. He liked it and kept it.)

Paul Klee, whose cat’s name was Bimbo, made many cat paintings.

Jim Henson’s love for cats and all animals clearly inspired his work on the Muppets.

Agnès Varda created an image of her late cat for the logo of her film production company. The cat was also featured in one of her art installations.

Louis Wain made these wild, psychedelic cat paintings of cats. He credited a lot of his inspiration to his cat, Peter.

Widewalls: It’s been two years since the book has been published. When you look back, what are some of the best and also hardest moments you experienced while writing it?

AN: Sometimes there’s a lot of detective work involved in tracking down information that is extremely personal, like the name of someone’s cat. It’s always rewarding when you can piece together bits of information and finally see the complete picture.

The hardest moments involved having to exclude an artist and cat for one reason or another. For example, I wanted Karl Lagerfeld and his cat Choupette in the book, but I believe they were creating a book about Choupette at the time, so we wound up not working together. There’s no grudge between us, though. I still follow Choupette on Instagram (yes, she has her own social media manager). She’s fabulous.

Widewalls: Do you own a cat now? Did any personal reasons draw you to write this book?

AN: I own two cats, a brother and sister named Lynx and Luna. I adopted them in 2014. They’re both very striking and completely white. Lynx is very talkative and has heterochromia. One eye is blue, and the other is green. Luna is very shy and has a bobtail, which is super cute and makes her look like a bunny.

I dedicated Artists and Their Cats to my late cats who were wonderful pets. Several years ago, I was living and working in a massive artist loft in Philadelphia that was big enough to ride a bike around inside. They loved the space and always kept me company while I worked.

I live in Los Angeles now with my boyfriend (another artist, he’s a filmmaker) and create my art at home. Lynx and Luna are always very curious about what I’m doing and love to try to dip their paws in my paint water.

Widewalls: What can we expect from you next? Is there any new book in the making at the moment?

AN: I’m really excited to announce that I’m currently working on a new book for Chronicle Books called Writers and Their Cats. I just finished drafting the final list of writers. I think readers will be really pleased with the variety. Stay tuned to my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and website for updates about the book and to find out when it will be released. I can’t wait to share more!

Left: Carlos Nadal – Pablo Picasso, 1960. © Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Right: James van der Zee – Jean-Michel Basquiat and Cat, 1982


Andy Warhol. © 2014 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Henri Matisse. © Robert Capa and the International Center of Photography / Magnum Photos


John Candelario – Georgia O’Keeffe, detail. Courtesy Palace of the Governors Photo Archives


Editors’ Tip: Artists and Their Cats

Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo… so many great artists have shared one very special love: the companionship of cats. Gathered here for the first time are behind-thescenes stories of more than 50 famous artists and their feline friends. From Salvador Dali’s pet ocelot Babou to John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s menagerie of cats, including Salt (who was black) and Pepper (who was white), Artists and Their Cats captures these endearing friendships in charming photographs and engaging text, and reveals what creative souls and the animals best known for their independent spirits have in common. In this clever compilation, art aficionados will discover a softer side of their favorite artists, and cat lovers will enjoy a whole new way to celebrate their favorite furry friends.

Widewalls Editorial/Interview, Reprint from Widewalls.ch, © 2017 WideWalls. Images courtesy Alison Nastasi.


Got Something To Say:

Your email address will not be published.

This actually answered my trouble, thank you!

This design is incredible! You obviously know how to keep a reader amused.
Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start
my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Great job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it.
Too cool!

I am frequently to blogging and also i actually appreciate your material. The short article has really peaks my rate of interest. I am going to bookmark your website as well as maintain looking for new details.

There are definitely a lot of information like that to take into consideration. That is a fantastic point to raise. I provide the thoughts above as basic motivation yet clearly there are inquiries like the one you raise where the most crucial thing will be operating in truthful good faith. I don?t know if best techniques have actually arised around points like that, yet I make certain that your task is plainly recognized as a level playing field. Both kids and also women feel the impact of simply a moment?s enjoyment, for the remainder of their lives.

This internet site is truly a walk-through for every one of the details you wanted about this and didn?t understand who to ask. Glance below, and also you?ll certainly discover it.

I would like to thank you for the efforts you’ve put
in penning this site. I really hope to view the same high-grade blog posts from you in the future as well.
In truth, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own, personal site now 😉

Appreciating the time and effort you put into your site and detailed information you provide. It’s nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same outdated rehashed information. Wonderful read! I’ve saved your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

Hey are using WordPress for your blog platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and create my own. Do you require any coding expertise to make your own blog? Any help would be really appreciated!

Have you ever thought about creating an ebook or guest authoring on other blogs? I have a blog based on the same subjects you discuss and would love to have you share some stories/information. I know my readers would value your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to send me an email.

I don’t even understand how I finished up right here, but I
assumed this publish was great. I don’t understand who you are but definitely you are going
to a well-known blogger if you happen to aren’t already.

Hello! Do you know if they make any plugins to safeguard against
hackers? I’m kinda paranoid about losing everything I’ve worked
hard on. Any suggestions?

extremely good message, i definitely like this website, keep it

After research a few of the article on your internet site currently, as well as I genuinely like your means of blog writing. I bookmarked it to my book mark site listing and also will certainly be inspecting back quickly. Pls have a look at my website as well and also let me know what you assume.

Aw, this was a really wonderful blog post. In suggestion I would like to put in writing similar to this additionally? requiring time and also actual initiative to make a very good short article? but what can I state? I hesitate alot and also by no means seem to get something done.

Spot on with this write-up, I really believe that this site needs a great deal more attention. I’ll probably be back again to read more, thanks for the advice!

This truly addressed my problem, thank you!

I love it whenever people get together and share views. Great website, stick with it!

This internet site is really a walk-through for all of the information you wanted concerning this and also didn?t know that to ask. Glimpse here, and also you?ll most definitely discover it.

Hello! I just want to give a huge thumbs up for the great details you have here on this article. I will certainly be coming back to your blog for more soon.

The next time I read a blog site, I wish that it doesn’t disappoint me as long as this. I imply, I understand it was my selection to read, however I really assumed youd have something fascinating to state. All I listen to is a bunch of whimpering concerning something that you might fix if you werent too hectic looking for focus.

you are in point of fact a good webmaster.
The web site loading pace is amazing. It seems that you
are doing any unique trick. In addition, The contents are masterpiece.
you’ve done a fantastic job in this topic!

This is the appropriate blog for anybody who wishes to find out about this subject. You realize so much its practically hard to argue with you (not that I actually would want?HaHa). You absolutely put a new spin on a topic thats been written about for many years. Excellent stuff, just fantastic!

Your place is valueble for me. Many thanks !?

I’m really loving the theme/design of your website. Do you ever run into any browser compatibility issues?
A small number of my blog audience have complained
about my site not working correctly in Explorer but
looks great in Chrome. Do you have any recommendations to help fix this issue?

Wonderful site you have here but I was wondering if you knew of any user discussion forums that cover the same topics talked about in this article?
I’d really like to be a part of community where I can get comments from other experienced people that share the same interest.
If you have any recommendations, please let me know.

Thanks a lot!

you have a great blog below! would certainly you such as to make some invite blog posts on my blog?

Would certainly you be intrigued in exchanging links?

When I initially commented I clicked the -Inform me when brand-new remarks are included- checkbox and now each time a remark is added I obtain 4 e-mails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove me from that service? Thanks!

The following time I review a blog site, I wish that it does not disappoint me as high as this one. I suggest, I recognize it was my option to review, however I in fact thought youd have something interesting to state. All I listen to is a lot of whimpering concerning something that you can repair if you werent as well hectic seeking focus.

Spot on with this review, I absolutely assume this website requires much more factor to consider. I?ll most likely be once again to read far more, many thanks for that info.

Youre so great! I do not expect Ive review anything similar to this before. So nice to find someone with some initial ideas on this subject. realy thanks for starting this up. this site is something that is needed on the web, a person with a little creativity. useful task for bringing something brand-new to the web!

When I originally commented I clicked the -Inform me when brand-new comments are included- checkbox as well as now each time a comment is added I obtain four e-mails with the exact same remark. Exists any way you can remove me from that solution? Thanks!

I?d need to contact you right here. Which is not something I normally do! I appreciate checking out a blog post that will certainly make individuals think. Likewise, many thanks for allowing me to comment!

Place on with this review, I really believe this website needs far more consideration. I?ll probably be once more to check out far more, thanks for that info.

There is noticeably a bundle to understand about this. I assume you made sure good factors in functions also.

You made some respectable points there. I looked on the internet for the concern and found most people will go along with with your site.

I am glad to be a visitant of this perfect blog, regards for this rare info!

The next time I review a blog site, I really hope that it does not dissatisfy me as long as this one. I imply, I recognize it was my option to review, however I in fact assumed youd have something interesting to state. All I listen to is a bunch of whining about something that you might take care of if you werent too hectic searching for focus.

Aw, this was an actually nice blog post. In concept I want to place in writing such as this in addition? taking some time and real initiative to make a great write-up? yet what can I state? I put things off alot as well as never seem to obtain something done.

I?m pleased, I have to claim. Really hardly ever do I come across a blog that?s both informative and also enjoyable, as well as let me inform you, you have actually hit the nail on the head. Your concept is impressive; the concern is something that not enough people are speaking wisely about. I am really happy that I stumbled across this in my look for something relating to this.

There is noticeably a lot of money to understand about this. I suppose you made particular nice points in functions also.

Greetings! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this website? I’m getting fed up of WordPress because I’ve had issues with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform. I would be great if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

Informative Site… Hello guys here are some links that contains information that you may find useful yourselves. It’s Worth Checking out….

An outstanding share, I simply given this onto a coworker that was doing a little evaluation on this. As well as he actually got me morning meal due to the fact that I found it for him. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! However yeah Thnkx for investing the time to review this, I really feel strongly about it as well as love finding out more on this subject. Preferably, as you end up being know-how, would certainly you mind upgrading your blog with even more details? It is extremely handy for me. Large thumb up for this blog post!

I just want to mention I’m very new to blogging and absolutely liked this blog. More than likely I’m planning to bookmark your site . You certainly have good article content. Thank you for sharing your website page.

I believe that is among the such a lot significant info for me.
And i am satisfied reading your article. But should remark on few common issues, The web site style is wonderful, the articles is
in reality nice : D. Good job, cheers

This is my first time go to see at here and i am genuinely pleassant to read all at single place.

Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you writing this post
and the rest of the site is very good.

I used to be suggested this website via my cousin. I
am not sure whether this post is written by way of him as nobody else understand
such targeted approximately my problem. You are amazing!
Thank you!

I always used to read piece of writing in news papers but now as
I am a user of web thus from now I am using net for articles
or reviews, thanks to web.

Have you ever considered about including a little bit more than just your articles?
I mean, what you say is fundamental and all. However just imagine if you added
some great images or videos to give your posts more, “pop”!

Your content is excellent but with images and video
clips, this blog could definitely be one of the very best in its field.
Awesome blog!

Magnificent beat ! I would like to apprentice at the same
time as you amend your website, how could i subscribe for a weblog site?
The account aided me a appropriate deal. I were a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided
brilliant clear concept

658897 776336Oh my goodness! a amazing post dude. Thanks Even so My business is experiencing concern with ur rss . Do not know why Struggling to join it. Is there anybody finding identical rss concern? Anyone who knows kindly respond. Thnkx 21740

… [Trackback]

[…] Read More here: irequireart.com/blog/2017/08/03/famous-artists-and-their-cats-a-feline-inspiration-interview-with-author-alison-nastasi/ […]