Artwork Title: Cat and Dog - Artist Name: Akseli Gallen-Kallela

Cat and Dog

Akseli Gallen-Kallela, 1890

23 x 17 inch
...shows a dumb-looking dog facing a clever cat over a ditch in a snow-covered field. (Letter of Akseli Gallen-Kallela to Ernst Tilgmann, dated 25 March 1897) [1] I am delighted at the thought of this painting, as I know that even Maestro Gallén can find fascination and amusement in “a dumb dog and a clever cat”. (Letter of Ernst Tilgmann to Akseli Gallen-Kallela, dated 28 March 1897) [2] The correspondence between Gallen-Kallela and Tilgmann casts light on the circumstances surrounding the creation of the seldom exhibited and little-known painting Cat and Dog.... A marginal note subsequently made on the letter by Leonard Bäcksbacka in 1931 also alludes to the origins of Cat and Dog, suggesting that Gallen-Kallela had said that it was painted in Korso in 1890. The source of this information is not entirely clear, as the note was made after the artist’s death, and some correspondence dating from 1897 also gives the contrary impression that the work was still unfinished at that time. In any case, it forms an interesting diversion from the artist’s general output in the 1890s. Cat figures are admittedly familiar from his previous works Old Woman With a Cat (1885) and Spruces in a Farmyard (1887), but the facing pose with a hunting dog represents a less common subject depicting only the animals. For example some known works from the 1880s feature a human figure facing an animal such as a cat, a cow, a cock and a crow. Through his own portrayal Gallen-Kallela gives character to the animals in the painting that can serve as the basis for a narrative if desired. The work gives the artist a realist orientation, with the everyday character of the scene emphasised by locating the event in a cloudy and minimally illuminated landscape. The horizon is shallow and the visual area is dominated by a wintry field with grass stalks emerging from under the snow. Gallen-Kallela painted several winter subjects and landscapes towards the end of the 1890s purely to make a living. After the controversy and outrage caused by his Symposium (originally entitled The Problem, 1894), he found that he had gone “out of fashion” and it was difficult to make ends meet. It was nevertheless at this time that the artist’s best-known works on the Kalevala theme originated and he pursued ground-breaking work in the field of industrial art. He developed a strong interest in the graphic arts and the opportunities that they promised, and his collaboration with Ernst Tilgmann and others testifies to the manner and intensity of the artist’s confidence in his own work and its future. [1] Copy in the archives of the Gallen-Kallela Museum. [2] Archives of the Gallen-Kallela Museum. []
catdogsnowfinnishoil on canvas

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