“Men are often portrayed in the company of dogs,” Sam Kalda writes in his book Of Cats and Men. “They hunt together, run happily side by side, and ride shoulder to shoulder in mud-splattered pickups—the perfect image of masculine bliss. The dog is, after all, man’s best friend. Some men, that is.” But what about the feline muses that inspired some of history’s great artists, writers, and thinkers? Well, they’re profiled in this beautifully illustrated and delightfully written book.
From Andy Warhol to Mark Twain to Sir Winston Churchill, Sam has painted stylish portraits of each of them. Every illustration is accompanied by a short but detailed description of who these men are and how a cat impacted their career. Sometimes, this is in big ways, like a feline motif that appears throughout a body of artwork. Other times, it’s smaller, but nonetheless charming. For instance: the cat that appeared with actor Marlon Brandon in the opening scene of The Godfather was quite the purrer. It was so loud, in fact, that many of Brando’s lines had to be overdubbed later. Ah, the power of cats.
This is not to say that men befriending cats is without stigma. Sam addresses this in his intro, What is a Cat Man? “Women have, for centuries,” he writes, “been chided and maligned for having a cat, let alone several. This ‘crazy cat lady’ stereotype is deeply unfair. Like Prometheus to fire, generations of enlightened fellows have gravitated to the feline species. We stand with our cat-loving sisters as crazy cat men, proudly wearing our scarlet letters in solidarity.”
My cat, Pauline, sits behind me as I write this. My other cat, Sadie, is elsewhere in my home, surveying her kingdom. To say I’m a cat person is an understatement—so it’s no surprise that I throughly enjoyed this book. I first learned about Of Cats and Men when it was a project for Sam’s MFA program at FIT; I’ve enjoyed seeing how it has evolved since then. As always, his illustrations are impeccably painted, and I love the retro-inspired style that he’s developed and refined over time.
Of Cats and Men goes on sale on April 18. That’s plenty of time to buy this book for your cat-loving dad for Father’s Day! In the meantime, check out some of the spreads and illustrations below.
Of Cats and Men is a new book written and illustrated by Sam Kalda. It profiles 30 notable “crazy cat men” who found muses in fabulous felines.
Michel de Montaigne
Illustrations (not photographs of the book itself) are reprinted from Of Cats and Men Copyright © 2017 by Sam Kalda. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.