(b. 1727, Sudbury, d. 1788, London)

Six studies of a cat

Black and white chalk on grey paper, 310 x 447 mm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

A cat in typically feline poses: alert, half-asleep, curled up snugly, and washing itself at great length. These cats by the English painter Gainsborough are extremely lifelike. This chalk drawing is unusual for him, for he seldom portrayed animals - most of his drawings were of landscapes and people. Tradition has it that the artist produced this drawing as a gift to his hostess while staying at her home. This would seem to be confirmed by the signature, for Gainsborough did not normally sign his drawings.