I think the sketches on this sheet are absolutely brilliant. I love how this lively feline has been so confidently drawn, with each sketch revealing something slightly different about its character.
The artist here is Thèodore Gèricault (1791-1824), famed for his masterpiece, The Raft of the Medusa, which hangs at the Louvre, Paris. Gèricault lived during the turbulent reign and fall of Napoleon and his art dealt largely with military themes and contemporary events. I reckon the antics of this cat provided a welcome distraction from the drama of his easel paintings. And unlike his serious work, these personal drawings are so refreshing because they weren’t made for recognition or financial re-numeration, but instead, purely for the joy of it.
If you look closely, the faint outlines of a horse are just visible underneath the cat studies. In a way, this underlying drawing helps hold the composition together by leading the eye from one sketch to the next.
What Gèricault achieved in these sketches was to capture beauty in the ordinary, something that I find inspiring. It’s a reminder of how our everyday lives can be a source of riches, if we choose to slow down and look at things with curiosity and a keen eye.
Sketches of a Wild Striped Cat, 1817-18, pencil on paper (12.5 x 15.5 in)