Cat catching a bird

Pablo Picasso • Painting, 1939, 81×100 cm
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About the artwork
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Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Animalism
Style of art: Symbolism
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1939
Size: 81×100 cm
Artwork in selections: 38 selections

Description of the artwork «Cat catching a bird»

Picasso once said: “I hate pure-bred cats that purr on the pillow in the living room. I like feral cats that hunt birds, scamper around the streets like crazy, drag everything they get. They look at you with wild eyes ready to scratch your face. Have you noticed that queens in the wild are almost always pregnant? This is quite natural: after all, they only think about love.”

The animal depicted in the Cat Catching a Bird painting has little to do with this slightly cruel, but quite attractive and cheerful image. Except, perhaps, its wild eyes. The artist depicted a menacing predator with a mouthful of sharp teeth, impressive claws and a hypnotic gaze. The viewer can almost hear the sound made by the cat — something between satisfied rumbling and warning roar. Its bright white colour makes the animal’s glowing eyes and intimidating claws stand out against the background of its fur, painted in muted, gloomy shades of brown. The fur looks dirty and matted, this effect is enhanced by the sand that the artist mixed into his paints while working on the painting. The sight of the open wound on the body of the bird beating in vain attempts to free itself from the grip of its tormentor evokes a feeling of genuine horror. Picasso transformed an everyday scene into an almost apocalyptic subject.

Art critics agree that Picasso’s paintings of this period on the themes of death and violence, simultaneously reflect his attitude to the Spanish Civil War and demonstrate a premonition of the horror of the Second World War, which would soon hit the whole world. In the first three months of 1939, Franco’s troops occupied Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia, and Hitler had already launched his invasion of Eastern Europe. A tragic event also happened in Picasso’s life: in January, his mother died. The artist’s worries spilled out onto the canvas in the form of creepy cats and skinned ram heads.

Picasso said: “I did not paint the war, because I am not the type of artist who draws what he sees, as photographers. But, undoubtedly, war is present in the paintings I painted at that time. Historians may later tell about how my work changed influenced by the war.

Written by Yevgheniia Sidelnikova
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