Gwen John’s Cat Portraits

I came across this lovely portrait on Pinterest some time ago and pinned it to my Calico Cat board there. (Pinterest, by the way, is where I often find images of calicos, and my Calico Cat board is where I collect them for potential later use here!) I looked at this portrait whenever I added something to my board and was always touched by the expressiveness of this seemingly simple picture.

Gwen John-Cat

Finally I went back to the original source of the image. I found out that it is a well-known portrait by the Welsh artist Gwen John (1876 – 1939) who did many now highly-regarded portraits of women in France, her adopted home. Some of these portraits are in the collection of the Tate Museum in Britain. At the time, it was thought her portraits were old-fashioned since they used subtle color and were traditionally posed, figurative portraits. Her reputation seems to be growing because of the beauty of her compositions, their depth, and that subtlety of color.

I was taken aback that I’d never heard of her–though her brother, Augustus John, was also a famous painter and she was Auguste Rodin’s mistress for some years. [Do I need to point out that she has used the calico colors in her self-portrait below? Look at the dress and the cameo pin at her throat!]

Self-Portrait (1902)

I found more of her work in the Tate Museum collection. From their website here, I learned that Gwen loved cats and had a number of them. The cat in the portrait above was named Edgar Quinet–after the street near her place in Paris–though the cat was female. At some point Edgar disappeared, and Gwen was quite upset.

Here is another of her cat sketches

Cat (1904) Gwen John

Cat (1904) Gwen John

Gwen John’s cats are tortoiseshell rather than calico, but the color scheme is the same. By the way, if I understand correctly, the difference between tortoiseshell and calico cats is that the black, red, and white colors in a tortoiseshell cats are mixed together rather than being in large, discrete patches.

So here is a tortoiseshell kitty


Tortiecat (Photo credit: LuAnn Snawder Photography)

while here is a calico . . . well, make that two!


2013_01_090011d (Photo credit: Gwydion M. Williams)

Here’s a last pencil and watercolor portrait by Gwen John

Cat Cleaning Itself (1904–1908), pencil and wa...

Cat Cleaning Itself (1904–1908), pencil and watercolor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I think Edgar–if indeed this is also she–looks almost calico here because of the broad brushstrokes, but if tortoiseshell is the preferred term in Europe (as I’ve read somewhere), then tortie she is.


Nope, Pastels Do Not Go With Calico

Here’s proof that pastel colors do not go with calico!

Maybe that’s why Callie rarely goes into my daughter’s room–she knows the aqua-violet-hot pink decor doesn’t suit her.

Keep this in mind when buying accessories like cat beds and jewelled collars for your calico.

The same goes for you tricolor dog (i.e., Beagle, King Charles, Collie, Aussie, etc.) owners. No pink harnesses or Easter-bunny-colored dog blankets, please! It’s just wrong.

If you dress your calico cat/dog/horse in pastels, it looks like you don’t care. Like you don’t care how your majestic Jack-o’-lantern-colored friend looks out there.

Stick with red, black, flame orange, or medium green for accessories.

Wait! Isn’t the ‘calico palette’ the typical Halloween colors–orange pumpkins, black vampires, white ghosts?

Why didn’t that dawn on me before–especially when more than one person has told me Callie looks “scary”? (I just thought it was her intimidating fluffiness and raptor-like stare.)

Callie had a beautiful red collar for a while, but somehow managed to ditch it. The black and white one with little bows she had after that looked good on her too, but it started messing up her ‘ruff’, so I don’t make her wear it now.

No worries, she’s strictly an indoor kitty (and has a chip). I wouldn’t dream of unleashing such a creature on the unsuspecting local coyotes!

If anyone out there puts their calico in pastels *on purpose*, I’d like to see a photo proving why you shouldn’t be arrested for a fashion crime!

A Visual Poem (In Calico Colors)

I wanted to share a piece called “High Density” by Rosalie Gascoigne (1917 – 1999) because of the text and the colors she used. It is a visual poem–or Vispo–done in a beautiful calico palette. I can’t get it to embed correctly, so here it a link to it on the tumblr blog of visual poet Anatol Knotek:

Now that I did that, Zemanta/Wordpress is suggesting these other art works–in the calico palette. How can it tell what I mean by that?? I mean, is it making visual matches, or does the search feature understand what ‘calico’ means?

But wait! I guess I should have done my research before posting, hmm? Zemanta just knows Rosalie Gascoigne’s work when it sees her name. It didn’t give me her name with the captions provided (see below), but the first two are her work. I don’t know why the second one says “Gascoigne Monaro,” except that I learned she lived in the Monaro area (in Australia) at some point.

Here is a link to a gallery/site about her work:


Metropolis, 1999 (detail)

Metropolis, 1999 (detail) (Photo credit: aur2899)

gascoigne monaro

Gascoigne Monaro (Photo credit: One Thousand Words)

Poem and calligraph

Poem and calligraph (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Lady With Tigers (via Tumblr)

Is the lady accordionist in this charming illustration by Naomi Wilkinson harping while dreaming of tigers? Are the tigers dancing the polka? Flying? Burning?

Check it out!

Here’s William Blake’s Tyger poem, with his engraving, to which I’m alluding
William Blake's "The Tyger," publish...

William Blake’s “The Tyger,” published in his Songs of Innocence and of Experience (Photo credit: Wikipedia)