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"The Stray Kitten"
William Collins, 1835
The Victoria & Albert Museum
William Collins (1788-1847) a student of the Royal Academy of Arts quickly became a celebrated and fashionable painter whose landscapes and rustic genre paintings (especially those of children—a favorite subject of Collins) were eagerly collected. The art-buying public gobbled up Collins’ scenes, drawn-in by his ability to convey emotion and feeling without being overtly sentimental. Prints created after Collins’ paintings were big sellers. Collins remained popular even after his death due, in large part, to the loving biography written by his equally famous son, author Wilkie Collins.
Here’s one of Collins’ typical works. This one is the second version of the same scene. The original was commissioned by one Mr. Holden and first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1833. This 1835 version is nearly identical to the original painting. Since the original had been so well-received, Collins knew he had a hit. However, Mr. Holden was not keen on continuing to exhibit the original version, preferring to keep it in his own collection. And, so, Collin’s created this second canvas to display at the Royal Academy. I don’t think anyone really ever noticed the difference.
Called “The Stray Kitten,” (happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr, purr, purr) both versions of the painting drew large crowds who were attracted to its easily-relatable theme and content. In May of 1833, “The Athenaeum” critic wrote of the original version of the painting that it was, “in his best manner; it is a picture that many will covet, for it cannot but be felt by all.”