Artists from the Far East have always had a special regard for cats. All the way from Persia to India and even to China, big cats have been used as symbols of leadership in power. And as domestic cats began to spread eastward, it also emerged by finding a place in the art world.
Persian Cat Art
Muslims have actually held that in very high regard since cats were the chosen pet of the prophet Mohammed. But Images from the Middle East – where cats are very plentiful and also where long-haired cats actually involved – have become rare because Islam does not approve of the concept of representational art.
It is actually in the works of Western painters who were visiting the region that we first see these beloved cats curled up on the laps of Arab scribes and even being fussed over by Arab women. However, we also see paintings depicting narrative scenes of national folktales and stories that came from the Bible that were done by Ottoman artists during the 14th century which include lots of domestic kitties.
The most commonly portrayed cats in eastern art are displaying tortoise and white cats or cats with bicolors. This indicates that these particular patterns and cats were preferred by the people who lived there.
Indian and far Eastern Cat Art
In a country of India, cats are looked upon as symbols of wealth and high status, which is portrayed in many of their painted scenes. The earliest interpretations of cats are revealed and painted religious images such as the goddess of fertility who has seen riding a feline.
House cats that are depicted in Indian paintings will often times portray them as the exclusive pets in court portraits. This implies that there was very little effort to create any pedigree type breeds.
When we go farther east to Thailand, we see where people are showing great reverence to their cats. This is depicted in paintings of beautiful scenes on papyrus that illustrate a huge variety of key coat colors and postures. And there are also the many copies of The Cat Book Poems which was written in the 16th century and refers often to Siamese cats.
It was during the Song Dynasty when cats first made a big impression on Chinese art. There they appear in lots of court portraits, which strongly suggest that cats were a symbol of social prestige. Many of these kitty renditions are very natural ones, such as showing kittens who frolic among flowers.
Japanese Cat Art
It was in Japanese art where cats enjoyed lasting fame. Many of their paintings feature the bobtail cats. Their cat paintings from the 18th and 19th centuries generally featured bobtail’s that are predominantly white.
There have been many great Japanese artists that were most noted for their beautiful paintings of cats. Artists like Utamaro (1753-1806) who included cats with beautiful women. And there was Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858) who was noted for painting cats in amazing detail.
But the most significant of these Japanese cat artists was Utagawa Kuniyoishi (1797-1861) who depicted cats with amazing accuracy and observation.