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Idea of a Certain Cat (Tokuhiro Kawai, 2004, Oil and Tempera on Board)

To balance yesterday’s post about the dog star, today we feature three whimsical cat paintings by Tokyo born surrealist Tokuhiro Kawai.  I am calling Kawai a surrealist, but perhaps it would be more correct to call him a painter of fantastical narrative: all of his works seem to have some sort of magical fairy-tale story behind them.  Although the three monarchical cats shown here are lighthearted, some of Kawai’s other paintings are much more melodramatic and feature fearsome conflict between devils, angels, and heroes.

Tame Cat’s Optical Illusion (Tokuhiro Kawai, 2006, Oil on Canvas)

Each of these paintings features a Scottish Fold housecat either wearing a crown or being ceremonially coronated.  The little black and white cat is so self-assured and regal that we hardly wonder at its elevation to the throne.  With broad gleaming eyes and fur that seems as though the viewer could touch it, the cat seems real.  One wonders if perhaps it belongs to the artist.

Smolder Thinking (Tokuhiro Kawai, 2008, Oil on Canvas)

Kawai has a particular gift for painting animals and many of his compositions are filled from top to bottom with flamingos, foxes, owls, ammonites, and pelicans.  Cats seem to be his favorite and they are pictured as conquerors, tyrants, and gods—in one of his pictures a feisty cat has killed an angel like it was a songbird and is holding the limp corpse in his fangs while standing like a stylite atop a classical column. Fortunately the cat in these three paintings does not seem as violent.  The little kitty is clearly dreaming about the trappings of power—what it would be like to wield absolute authority and be pampered all day.  Knowing my own pet housecat’s personality, I believe that such an interpreatation of feline psychology is not entirely a stretch.

Claude Mollet, Innovator and Gardener to the Kings of France

Devoted readers may have noticed that I haven’t written a garden post for a while.  That’s, um, because my garden is kind of…well…flat.  It got hit by triple punches in the form of a tornado, a giant hail storm, and now winter.  All that’s left is to plant my bulbs, put my roses to bed, and sadly stare at the little yew bush in the corner until Spring comes again with its ancient magic.

During this cold dead season, gardeners fantasize about spectacular gardens they can never have or even see in person.  I personally have been reflecting on parterre gardens and wanted to present a little gallery with pictures of great parterre gardens around the world.  Parterre gardens are highly formal gardens which make use of gravel walkways, flat planted beds, and tightly clipped hedges and topiaries to create extremely precise geometric designs.  They were created at the end of the16th century by Claude Mollet (ca. 1564 – shortly before 1649), the first gardener for three French kings.  The Mollets were a dynasty of exalted gardeners who were much in demand by the French nobility.  Claude’s father was chief gardener at the Château d’Anet where young Claude saw formal style Italian herb gardens being planted.  He admired the geometric precision of these small geometric her beds or compartimens as they were known in France and wondered if they could be made larger.  From this concept sprang a vast world of “embroideries (passements), moresques, arabesques, grotesques, guilloches, rosettes, sunbursts (gloires), escutcheons, coats-of-arms, monograms and emblems (devises)” to quote Jacques Boyceau, another luminary of the early parterre movement.

But enough words!  Enjoy this tiny gallery of parterre gardens from around the world as you plan your spring gardens and get ready to pass the long winter.

Waddesdon formal flower garden

Villandry garden

Tatton Park Gardens

Parterre at le Chateau de la Hulpe

Longwood Garden Topiary Garden

Leaning Pine Aboretum at CalPoly

La Casa Pacifica flower parterre

West Parterre of Hatfield House

Parterre Garden at Hampton Court Palace in London

Parterre at Château de Courances

Bourton House Topiary

Brodsworth Formal GardenHillwood Garden Fountain

Ye Olde Ferrebeekeeper Archives

June 2021
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