The reclining cat in art is one of the dominant themes found in painting, sculpture and photography. The cat has historically symbolized many things--beauty, grace, indolence, mystery, and duplicity. Cats spend a good portion of their lives in light "cat naps," in which they rest yet are ready for action at any moment. They give us their hearts, yet never belong to us. They live with us, but the terms are theirs.

In the reclining cat as art form, the cat can be either curled up or stretched across the frame. Some cats appear to be in deep sleep; others are resting, perhaps even playing.

In "Kitten in Box," the cat here is, obviously, just a kitten. This kitten is not sleeping; she is happily playing. Yet the dilapidated box suggests that her future may not be as carefree as her behavior implies.

The cat in "Barring the Way" is a very different creature. The cat out of doors, amidst nature, is a favorite subject of many artists. This cat's relaxed pose suggests he is master of his own universe. Yet the bridge symbolizes man's encroachment on the natural world and the taming of the beast. Perhaps it is man's protection and guardianship that lets this cat be so relaxed.

There is no question that the cat in the next portrait, "L'Apres Midi d'Un Chat" is anything other than a pet. Here he sits, on his plush bed on soft blankets, oblivious to the world. But look closer, and we see that there is a second subject in this picture—another cat in the background. The artist chooses to show merely the top of her head. Is she a trusted friend or an interloper, infringing on the main subject's terrain? Are his eyes tightly closed because he slumbers deeply or because he is trying to block out her presence?


In "Cats A Deux" there is no question that these cats are aware of each other. They are nestled together, curled up like fetuses or two heads of a playing card, in a shape that resembles an infinite loop. Felis catus in perpetuum.




"Les Poupees" is at first glance a charming scene depicting a dolls' tea party. The viewer then makes the pleasant discovery that there is a cat curled up among them. But this cat is not in repose. She gazes directly at the viewer. Her expression is a mystery. Is she trying to attract our attention and engage us in play? Or is she expressing that her life, full of pampering, is nonetheless empty and meaningless?



The reclining cat was also embraced by abstract expressionists. In "Study in Black and White" the cat has merged with its surroundings, becoming merely a black-and-white montage, reminiscent of the works of John Singer Sargent or Ansel Adams.

Kitten in Box


Barring the Way


L'Apres Midi d'Un Chat


Cats A Deux


Les Poupees


Study in Black and White


Copyright © 2005 P.O. Box 580 New York, NY 10113