Cats are very beautiful to look at; their poses are so elegant it looks as if they were the subjects of great masters' paintings. One cat in Russia takes this to another level by actually being a subject of many famous paintings done by the greatest artists of all time. The beautiful, plump, ginger tabby with an awesome name, Zarathustra, sneaks comfortably into paintings and fits right in. "If I fits, I sits or lays, in whatever the artist portrays," said he.
Zarathustra's partner, a human named Svetlana Petrova, masterfully Photoshops him in into countless iconic paintings, ranging from the well-known works of Vincent van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, J. Vermeer, Frida Kahlo, Diego Velazquez, and many others who have painted their way into art history. Zarathustra has become quite famous for his appearances in these famous works, and has had an exhibition in the UK. His photos were also shared by some museums on the internet.
Who would've thought that this kitty would become a face associated with the great artists? Zarathustra's purpose is twofold: entertainment, of course, and education. Zarathustra helps raise awareness about the great works of art and helps them not to get buried in the sands of time by refreshing them and giving them a contemporary twist. It isn't the first time this beautiful ginger tabby has enjoyed a spotlight on our platform. You can find links to the posts here and here.
The experiment of creating an internet meme out of art history told by the cat was so successful that Penguin Random House suggested making a book about the project. Svetlana Petrova & Zarathustra the Cat’s book “FAT CAT ART: Famous Masterpieces Improved by a Ginger Cat with Attitude” was published in the USA and was translated in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. You can find the book here.
Svetlana has talked about the project in an exclusive interview with Bored Panda: "Fat Cat Art is a very personal project for me. Zarathustra the Cat is my mother’s cat; I adopted him after she died in 2008. I was so close to my mother, and miss her so much. Zarathustra was and is a living memory of my mother. Zarathustra saved me from depression after my mother’s death. Before, in my theatre project, I made artworks with my other cat Marc, and one of my friends told me: "why you don’t do any art with your new cat Zarathustra, he is so funny!” And he was: he was fat, my mother spoiled him immensely, it is her words on the site, that he is “the best cat in the world.”
"I thought: why not, it will amuse me, and began to think of what I should do. It was useless to put wings on him, because he is evidently unable to fly in his physical conditions. So I thought that maybe I could do a photo session with food in the style of Dutch still-life paintings. To imagine how it would look, I decided to photoshop the cat into some painting (I used Photoshop for sketches of the sets of my events and costumes). And I don't know why I photoshopped it into another painting, Danae by Rembrandt. Then I made 4 more classic paintings, and I sent it to some friends of mine, artists and gallerists, just to see their reaction. Never before had I seen serious ladies crying to tears and laying down from laughter. This encouraged me a lot, and I launched the site FatCatArt.com."
"My other inspiration was the internet. I dreamt of creating an internet meme that would be beautiful and clever; this virus should bring some information, some stimulus to know more. People discovering my cat paintings should google the originals. Of course, not all of them do that, but just a few of them doing it is worth a play. Making this project brought a lot of knowledge for me also: I studied the style of old masters, their technique, to make paintings look as if they are real paintings made by old masters. I am very pleased if a museum that has original paintings in its collection reposts my artworks."
"Zarathustra is a serious cat and this is a serious project: all our works of art are high-resolution and large-sized, like original paintings, and the aim of the project is to put them for a couple of days or years or centuries in the museums where the original paintings are. We are just waiting to find out what museum would be brave enough to let an internet kitty in. Museums let graffiti writers in, now it’s LOLcats’ turn."
"Zarathustra is 15 years old. He is a very sensible and gentle cat, very kind, he adores cuddling and talking to me, or just laying by my side and purring. He adores attention to his person. He hates when I speak on the phone with somebody when he is nearby, he becomes jealous. Sometimes when I work on the computer for hours, he comes to me and asks for attention, just like saying 'you give me more attention on your computer than in real life!'
Zarathustra has a real talent for acting and being a model. Actually, he is a natural-born artist and he knows he is making art, and he is always very friendly to photographers. He knows who is a photographer and begins to flatter these people—amazing how he knows!"
"He has a special place for work as a model. In my apartment there is a podium covered by a big carpet, it looks like a stage. When Zarathustra wants to pose, he shows me that I should go to this place, then lays down on this carpet, and begins to make very funny poses with a very serious face. He has rich mimicking skills and can make different, very expressive faces. Actually, Zarathustra the Cat is a fantastic actor. Look at this, how Zarathustra re-enacts Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard. Pay attention to 0:27-0:35. He is very convincing, saying 'I am ready for my close-up!' So I am very serious when I say that he is my co-author."
"My digital art pieces come to the real world in different ways: they can be printed with different techniques, and they can be recreated manually, printed on canvas and then painted, and just painted. So I can show not only digital art online but also exhibit it offline. For exhibitions, I print an image on canvas for painting, then I make applications of historical pigments overprint—natural mineral colors, such as lapis lazuli, which is the powder of semi-precious stone used to paint the sky and blue colors, lead-tin yellow, and lead white for highlight accents, and touches of true vermillion for Zarathustra's fur. All these colors were used in Renaissance and Old Dutch paintings, and now they are produced in very small quantities, mainly for restoration needs. Also, I restore brush stroke volume using modern acrylic materials."
"Thus a modern image looks like a real historical painting, even in texture and color appearance, and it seems that a master of the past painted a cat in it. The exhibition in UK called 'From icons to iCats' was the first offline personal exhibition of the Fat Cat Art project, which got incredible press success. The impressions are here. Other exhibitions followed this one. Now I am going to sell my art as NFTs."
"I especially love Italian Renaissance masters like Leonardo, Raphael, Botticelli, northern masters Albrecht Durer, Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Peter Paul Rubens, Jan Vermeer and Bartholomeus van der Helst, master of Dutch still-life Willem Claesz Heda and Pieter Claesz, Spanish Diego Velazquez and Francisco de Goya, Salvador Dali (not classical but equal in painting skills), French Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Jacques Louis David, Americans John Singer Sargent and Edward Hopper (the last one also not classic), Russian Ilya Repin, Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, Kazimir Malevich, etc., etc., etc."