The Artist's Muse
Apart from the sheer pleasure of their company, pets also inspire artists
directly as subjects for their works. Still-life paintings through the ages are
enlivened by such devices as, for example, a cat slinking toward a platter of
food. And cats, dogs, ferrets, birds, and other pets often stand in as symbols
of domesticity, fertility, prosperity — even treachery. Musical compositions
draw from animal actions, as in Domenico Scarlatti's delicate "Cat
Fugue" or Igor Stravinsky's catlike clarinets in "Berceuses du
Chat." Animals are frequently employed as metaphors in literary works:
Colette's cats, James Thurber's dogs Poe's raven, Jack London's dogs, Keats's
nightingale — the list is endless.
Walt Whitman wrote in "Song of Myself" that animals "do not lie
awake in the dark and weep for their sins." Artists do, and many relish the
guiding presence of their pets as they search to identify and resolve ideas
through their art. Pets have the ability to comb out the tangles of
self-consciousness, lighten the spirit, and connect us to inspiration and
You needn't be a practicing artist to understand this. Anytime you allow
yourself to experience the world through a pet's perspective — by walking,
working, playing, even just observing or resting alongside one — you are
transported away from internal clutter and conflict. Then any of us can reach
the same conclusion that so many artists have understood over the millennia.
The simple truth is that pets add poetry to all our lives.
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