When we adopted two kitties in May of 2015, it took a little while to come up with two perfect names. I never had a kitten and did not have cats growing up. Sweet Pepper came into my life fully grown when I met Jeff in 1998. I fell in love with him, but it took a few more years to fall head over heels in love with Pepper and truly become a cat person. Pepper succumbed to kidney disease at age 19 1/2 in December 2014. While I thought we would never get over this loss, I have to say that Matisse and Monet have filled the collective hole in our hearts.
Jeff let me choose the names Matisse and Monet for our male and female kitties – he liked the names right away, but now he cannot imagine any other names for our two little characters. Aside from the fact that we are both artists and these were two of the greatest French artists of all time, the names are beautiful, rolling off the tongue like music to the ears. I love van Gogh as an artist more than Matisse or Monet, but I could not see naming our male cat after the talented and tortured Dutchman – when you pronounce it the correct and guttural Dutch way, it’s not so pretty! When I first told my dad the names of our new kittens, he said, “Monet is a man’s name,” and yes – Claude Monet was a guy – and an immensely talented one at that. However, Monet is also a girl’s name, as in Monet Mazur.
We adopted Matisse and Monet on May 1, and May 12, respectively. Soon after deciding on their names, I discovered that Henri Matisse had a cat that looked a lot like our Matisse. For some time, an idea was ruminating in the back of my head to write something about this, but I wasn’t certain if it was story worthy.
It turns out that Matisse, the artist, was quite the animal lover and had at least two cats named Minouche and Coussias, as well as birds. I could not find out anything definitive about Monet and pets, but he rarely depicted them in paintings and I could not find a single photograph of him with any pets. One book reference mentioned that Monet painted alongside his friend Pierre-Auguste Renoir and while Renoir included the cats that were milling about the scene in his paintings, Monet omitted them.
Many famous artists have been photographed with their pets. A book was published in 2003 called Impressionist Cats and Dogs: Pets in the Painting of Modern Life. One would have to presume that many of the dogs and cats in these paintings belonged to the artists. Although Matisse loved animals, Renoir and the Impressionist Pierre Bonnard painted far more works that included their pets. Although Bonnard owned six successive dachshunds all named Poucette, if his paintings are any indication, he must have been a feline owner as well. Given the number of paintings in which Renoir included a kitty, it is likely cats were also among his family pets. Cats are delightful creatures to own and photograph. I have never attempted to paint them – perhaps one day.