Friday, November 9, 2007
In the course of (Gottfried Mind's) narrow, indoors life, he had worked himself into an almost paternal relation with domestic animals, especially with cats. While he sat painting, a cat might generally be seen sitting on his back or on his shoulder; many times he kept, for hours, the most awkward postures, that he might not disturb it. Frequently there was a second cat sitting by him on the table, watching how the work went on; sometimes a kitten or two lay in his lap under the table. Frogs (in bottle) floated beside his easel; and with all these creatures he kept up a most playful, loving style of conversation; though, often enough, any human beings about him, or such even as came to see him, were growled or grunted at in no social fashion.
His chief diligence and most careful elegance he brought to work in the painting of his beloved cats. He had both the art to seize the general nature of this animal and to reflect the specific character of each. The sycophantic look full of falseness, the dainty movements of the kittens, several of which are sometimes painted sporting round their dam—all this, in the most multifarious postures, turns, groups, sports, and quarrels, is depicted with a true observance to nature.
On Sundays and winter nights, Mind, by way of pastime, used, out of dried, wild chestnuts, to carve little cats, bears, and other beasts, and this with so much art that these little dainty toys were shortly in no less request than his drawings. It is a pity that insects, such as frequently exist in the interior of chestnuts, have already destroyed so many of these carvings.
At the Barengraben (bear-yard) in Bern, where a few live bears are always to be seen, Mind passed many a happy hour. The moment he made his appearance, the bears hastened towards him with friendly grumbling, stationed themselves on their hind feet, and received, impartially, each a piece of bread or an apple out of his pocket. For this reason, bears, next to cats, were a favourite subject of his art; and he reckoned himself, not unjustly, better able to delineate these animals than even celebrated painters have been. Moreover, next to his intercourse with living cats and bears, Mind's greatest joy was in looking at objects of art, especially copper-plates, in which, too, animal figures gave him most satisfaction.
from a Wikipedia article on 18th century autistic savant artist Gottfried Mind, who was known as the Cat-Raphael.