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loves: you win if you guessed "pets" and "museums". Also books, art history, travel, British punk, Korean kimchi, bindis, martinis, and other things TBD. I will always make it very clear if a post is sponsored in any way. Drop me a line at thepetmuseum AT gmail.com !

Monday, July 19, 2010

gottfried mind, the raphael of cats

...He delighted in painting them in all sorts of attitudes, singly or in groups, with truth and naturalness which have never been surpassed. His pictures were, one might almost say, cat-portraits; he gave every shade of expression to their soft and cunning faces; he lent infinite variety to the graceful attitudes of kittens playing with their mother; he depicted the silky coat of the cat perfectly; in short, the cats that were painted by Mind seemed to be alive. Mdme. Lebrun, who never failed to purchase some of this painter's works on each of her visits to Switzerland, called him "the Raphael of Cats."
Gottfried Mind (Swiss, of Hungarian descent; 1768-1814) is thought to have been either autistic or an idiot savant (not that I care for that last term). He had by all accounts a marvelous facility with depicting animals and delighted in bears. However, cats were his soulmates. He was neither comfortable or even quite capable at human interaction, as Champfleury's quote above continues: "Mind was a short man, with a big head, very deep set eyes, a reddish-brown complexion, a hollow voice, and a sort of rattle in his throat, which, added to his gloomy expression, produced a repulsive effect on those who saw him for the first time."
What humans couldn't appreciate, Mind's furry tribe did. "The painter and his cats were inseparable; while he worked his favourite she-cat was almost always by his side, and he carried on a sort of conversation with her. Sometimes she would sit on his knees ; two or three kittens would be perched on his shoulders; and he would remain in this attitude for hours without stirring, lest he should disturb the companions of his solitude." He even had enough cunning to hide his favorite cat from a general slaughter in Bern in 1809, when "an epidemic of madness" had broken out in the local feline population.
You'd think his images would be more generally known, but they aren't. I did find a few, and I have for courtesy's sake to send you to a Google image search on Gottfried Mind. (Hope that works.) You won't be disappointed at their warmth and liveliness, though given the full story they're a little heartbreaking around the edges.
Quotes taken from The Cat, Past and Present, Champfleury (Trans. with additional notes by Mrs. Cashel Hoy. London: George Bell and Sons, York Street, 1885), pp. 184-6.


A few Good Cats said...

The cats' reaction to Mind tells us all we need to know about him. Humans are notably poor at evaluating their own species.

Katnip Lounge said...

Funny how Cats gravitate to those they feel are kindred spirits. Mind obviously thought differently and the Cats knew and appreciated him.

Anonymous said...

A book of his paintings doesn't seem to exist. I don't even know where to look to find more information about him.

curator said...

Try Google Advanced Book Search - much info on Gottfried Mind is out of print.