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Cat Art vs. Dog Art: A Showdown at the Blanton Museum

Eward Hopper and his wife, Jo, spent their summers in South Truro, Massachusetts, on the tip of Cape Cod. Their neighbor was novelist John Dos Passos, whose wife bred Siamese cats. According to Francesca Consagra, a senior curator at the University of Texas at Austin’sBlanton Museum of Art, one cat in particular, called Perkins, caught Hopper’s eye. Perkins—named after editor Maxwell Perkins—became the subject of numerous sketches and studies by Hopper, which carefully depict the docile feline lounging around, stretching, and sleeping.

Hopper is one in a long line of artists—dating back to the ancient Egyptians—who have been influenced artistically by their four-legged friends. An exhibition opening this summer at the Blanton explores this 33-century-long fascination through more than 150 cat- and dog-inspired paintings, sculptures, drawings, and etchings. Titled “In the Company of Cats and Dogs,” the show will feature works by such artists as Pablo Picasso, Vasily Kandinsky, William Wegman, Dieter Roth, Francisco de Goya, and Louise Bourgeois.

Curated by Consagra and organized with the help of the university’s Anthrozoology department, the show  will delve into the ever-changing dynamic between humans and their cats and dogs. Consagra will divide the works into nine sections, each highlighting one of the various roles animals have played throughout history. These roles include hunters and herders, human protectors, symbols of morality in literature and art, religious and mythological beings, and, of course, pets.

 

Images of cats and dogs have long represented unsavory traits. Cats have been associated with witchcraft and lasciviousness, while small lap dogs can symbolize laziness or promiscuity.