Calico Cat With Chrysanthemum

Here are three paintings of cats–the first is a striking cat painting from Korea that features a calico and a chrysanthemum.

[Sorry I don’t have a translation of what is written on the painting or more information about it. I found these images on a site called Vintage Printables that features old artwork no longer under copyright and now in the public domain.]

Korean Painting of Calico With Chrysanthemum

The painting below looks to feature one calico and two other kittens. It was done by Sidney Lawrence Brackett in 1890. But it’s more likely that the kitten in the foreground is actually black and white, and there is a calicoing effect that comes from the orange color painted on the box, from the second kitten in the box, and from the orange shadow of the second kitten.

This calicoing– i.e., the echoing of calico coloration–that I see here fits with the idea I proposed in an earlier post, “More Calico Aesthetic”: I think there is a tendency to ‘calico’ images, and especially images of cats. I think this is because people are drawn to the balance of the three colors–the black, white, and orange.


Sidney Lawrence Brackett, ca. 1890. Via Smithsonian


Now look at this painting below for an even more powerful example of calicoing.


Bruno Liljefors. Katt på fågeljakt. (1883)


This time we have a black and white cat emerging from a blazingingly orange and red autumn background. This is calicoing to the extreme. This painting doesn’t use the orange as an (inevitable) color to accent the black and white, as we see in the painting above, to evoke the calico triumvirate. This painting uses the black and white as accents to ‘pop’ against the orange.

The calicoing effect is doubled–and I’d say confirmed as the artist’s conscious aesthetic strategy–by the bird which the artist has chosen to put in the cat’s mouth. The artist has the cat catching what looks to me like a Baltimore oriole, the tri-colored state bird of Maryland. However, since it appears this painting is by a Swedish artist, it may be some other kind of bird I don’t know–unless there are “Baltimore” orioles there too!

Hello and hell!–I’ve been fooled! I have to retract everything I just said about the (version of the) Liljefors painting above!

When I did a search to learn more about the painter, I found what almost looks like a whole different painting on the Wikipedia Commons. I then looked at other Liljefors paintings available on Google Images. That makes me think that this version below is the accurate representation (it is probably Swedish countryside), and that the hyper-calico version of the painting above was calico-colorized! And Why?! is my question!

This looks to be an accurate representation of the painting.


Now I have a question for the Vintage Printables people. I’d like to ask how it is that the Liljefors painting on their site has such radically different (and so much more calico) colors!

However, that said, even though the accurate version of the painting has a far, far more subtle and nuanced palette, I still think my hunch about the attraction of the calico color threesome is spot on.

If anyone finds the calicoing effect I’m talking about in photographs or paintings, I’d be interested in seeing them!


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