An enigmatic and provocative picture, thought to be a self-portrait. The young man's smile and direct gaze seem to hold an invitation, in an intriguing gender role reversal. The tone and feel of the painting is reminiscent of Velasquez's "Rokeby Venus" or Ingres' "Grande Odalisque". The cat he is stroking, adds to the sensuous mood.
This painting was inspired by the story of a baby in its cradle, swept away by the water during a great flood disaster in Sheffield. The child seems unconcerned by the danger and is entranced by the birds in the branches above her. The cat, who has hitched a ride on this little ark, is fully aware of the peril and her mouth is open in a terrified miaow. True to Pre-Raphaelite form, the picture has a Biblical flavour, evoking both Moses and Noah.
This detail is from the huge (5’x 12’) painting considered to be Gauguin's masterpiece. The painting is populated with figures symbolising our journey through life and the animals with whom we share the world. The fundamental questions about the meaning of life remain unanswered (unless you are a devotee of Douglas Adams, in which case you will know the answer is 42.)
Pierre Auguste Renoir: Julie Manet (1887)
Julie was the daughter of Berthe Morisot and her husband Eugene Manet, younger brother of the painter Édouard Manet. As a child and an adult, she posed many times for her mother, her uncle and their Impressionist associates.
This portrait was done during the period when Renoir experimented with a style like that of Ingres, characterised by vivid colours, meticulous line and drawing, and an enamel-like finish. Julie herself thought it a good likeness, but Degas didn’t like it: "by doing round faces, Renoir produces flower pots", he said.
Suzanne Valadon, who modelled for and was the lover of many of the famous Impressionists (Dégas, Toulouse-Lautrec and Renoir among others), was a formidable artist in her own right. She painted landscapes, still lifes and female figures, frankly naked in an unashamed way that was shocking at the time.
This picture of two elegant Art Nouveau cats is a poster by Steinlen for an exhibition of his prints and drawings. He worked closely with Toulouse-Lautrec and the two of them were the first great poster artists. Steinlen’s first and most famous poster (see top of page) is of the iconic black cat, advertising “Le Chat Noir”, the first nightclub/cabaret in Paris.