Monday, January 29, 2018

CAT BOOK: CATICONS:4,000 Years of Art Imitating Cats by Sandy Lerner

"cat·i·con [kat ́-ī-kän]; n. A tangible representation of the feline form of a purely decorative order, i.e., an object with no functional purpose; an objet d’art created in the image of a feline."

"Caticons is a book containing the private collection of Sandy Lerner; a collection that documents 4,000 years of humans and their love of all things feline."

Imagine a sumptuous banquet, a banquet the likes of which you have never seen. You sit in awe of the courses as they appear one by one before you. You savor the many layers of pleasure that each course provides. You linger for hours, insatiably devouring all that is placed before you. That’s Caticons by Sandy Lerner.  A sumptuous banquet of art, history, literature, memorabilia and more,  that will delight the senses and soul of every cat  lover. A treasure they will return to throughout ALL of their nine lives.

"This book documents a very personal collection, one originally began as a catholicon for my congenital need to live with cats, during a catless hiatus caused by living instead with my new husband, an individual highly allergic to the entire family of Mammalia, and that’s just for starters. In time, this pursuit would evolve into an end in itself. I am well aware of my good fortune: the opportunity to live with such beautiful objects is a luxury in which only a very few can afford to indulge. Unlike some collectors who either follow trends or believe they are prophets in the art market, I have collected simply on the catholicity of (1) is it a cat, and (2) do I like it? Therefore, there are no images of unhappy cats, unlucky cats, or even unsociable cats. “My cats” are happy, healthy, and loved, in life and in art." 

Sandy Lerner
Virginia and Catcombe Mill, 2016

After being presented with Caticons by Sandy Lerner, I can state rather definitively that I seriously doubt that I will EVER have the pleasure of perusing a book of this quality and magnitude again. It is ENORMOUS. Enormous in reference to the amount of content, photographs and the size of the book.  It is simply magnificent. This is NOT a book that one can sit with during two nights of a weekend (as I tried to do) and think they are going to be able to finish it. It will NOT happen.

Over 300 pages, it is immediately evident to any who have the pleasure of reading and owning Caticons, that it is a TRUE labor of love. The enormity of Sandy Lerner's collection is mind-boggling.

The sections presented in Caticons are:

  • Preface
  • I. Introduction
  • II. Early Cats
  • III. Cats of the East
  • IV. Chronological Cats
  • V. Cats by Artists
  • VI. Special Cats
  • VII. Cats in Books & Entertainment
  • VIII. Cats in the Home
  • IX. Women and Cats & Men and Cats
  • X. Cats and Children
  • XI. Cats and Music
  • XII. Cats and Others
  • XIII. Cats and Cats
  • XIV. Cats and Prey
  • XV. Cats and Kittens
  • XVI. Cats Just Being Cats
  • XVII. Cat Bling
  • The Cat Conundrum:How Many Cats?

Remember when I referred to Caticons as being a sumptuous banquet above? Sit back because I am going to present some appetizers to you.
Photo Courtesy of Sandy Lerner
Persian Cats, Persian, late-19C/20C

From the section entitled "Early Cats" the above is an opaque watercolor on paper that measures 8 and a half by 13 inches. The description is: "White Persian cats peer intently from their green perch engulfed in a warm ochre backdrop. Their beautiful expressive faces are delicately detailed hair by hair in smoky tones contrasting with bright emerald eyes."
Photo Courtesy of Sandy Lerner
Carving of a Standing Cat, Faberge', Russian, c.1890
Green Hardstone, tiger's eye and gold, 5 inches long
From the 19th Century section of Caticons the above is one of my favorites because green is my favorite color! The description is: "This green hardstone cat modeled arched in warning, ready to strike, was created by Fabrege' and belonged to the Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, a member of the Russian Imperial Family and cousin of the Czar. The super artistry and fine craftsmanship for which Faberge' is known can be seen in the way the artist used changes in the stone's surface to provide mottling over the cat's body while adding tiny details like the gold piquet-point whiskers."
Photo Courtesy of Sandy Lerner
Musical Cat Carousel, Austrian, early 20C
metal, 9 and a half inches high

From the Cats and Music Section the description is as follows: "The introduction of steam power in the mid-19th Century added excitement and novelty to carousels, leading to their widespread popularity. Produced during the golden age of carousel rides (ca. 1860-1930), this music box, which plays "Weiner Blut" by Johann Strauss, features six detachable cats, each enjoying the thrill of musical, mechanized action. Steam power dramatically changed the pace of transportation, manufacturing, and even leisure, making this miniature an exciting reference to the latest amusements of the day."

Photo Courtesy of Sandy Lerner
Carousel Cat, Manner of Gustav Dentzel
Kreuznach, Germany 1844-1909
Philadelphia, flourished 1890-1906
mid-20C, wood and brass, 53 inches high
Also from the Cats and Music section,  and on the same page as the carousel featured above, we have the Carousel Cat. " Carousels were popular amusement rides at fairs beginning in the 19th Century. Gustav Dentzel, a German carver, was famous for his well-executed realistic menagerie, like this carousel cat. Although posed in a very similar jumping position, his cats typically feature a fish rather than a ribbon in the cat's mouth. Three of Dentzel's cats still provide rides today at the Ontario Beach Park Carousel in Rochester, New York, where they continue to be one of the most popular animals on the carousel." (No surprise to me!)

Photo Courtesy of Sandy Lerner
"Chat", Leonard-Tsuguharu Foujita
(Tokyo 1886-1968 Zurich), 1926
watercolor and ink on silk 17 3/8 by 13 inches
From the Cats by Artists section as a result of my adoration of all things tabby and that the word "Chat" is part of our blog title, I chose to feature the above gorgeous piece of art last.  "Chat" illustrates Foujita's distinct style of combining ink with watercolors to create a portrait of a cat. In this work, silk rather than paper serves as the canvas. The cat's face is detailed with a  pink nose and rimmed hypnotic eyes somewhat like Foujita's own round glasses, which later became his trademark accessory."


I am a quote collector from way back. Before ending this review it is important to me to mention that throughout Caticons you will find some of the most wonderful cat quotes you will ever read. I have read MANY (as I am sure most of you have too), but quite a large number of the quotes were new to me!  Here is a sampling of some of my favorites:

"When you're special to a cat, you're special indeed...she brings to you the gift of her preference of you, the sight of you, the sound of your voice, the touch of your hand." Leonore Fleischer (Hudson, New York 1932-2009) journalist and author.

"It is believed in some circles, that when one of our pets goes on ahead and after they feel we have had enough time to mourn them, they will send another life for us to save and love. It is their spiritual legacy to us." Vancat Onlion (American Contemporary) writer and animal advocate.

"A cat pours his body on the floor like water. It is restful just to see him." William Lyon Phelps (New Haven Connecticut 1865-1943) author, critic and educator.

"Cat people are different, to the extent that they generally are not conformists. How can they be, with a cat running their lives?" Dr. Louis Camuti (Parma, Italy 1893-1981 New York City) veterinarian and author.

"When moving to a new house, always put the cat through a window instead of the door. That way it will not leave." American Aphorism.

If you think I have even begun to scratch (pun intended!) the surface of Caticons with this review, think again. It would take me longer than the over three hours I have spent writing this review. Much, much longer. To be completely candid, the book is so enormous that I will be going back into it myself, because there is no way that this beautiful book can be appropriately absorbed and enjoyed in a mere two sittings of a few hours each. The final quote I am going to present to you is actually a quote that accompanies the stone cat sculpture that is shown on the cover of Caticons:

Cover Photo Courtesy of Sandy Lerner

"The beautiful cat which endures, and endures."
 Stela of Nebra, 16th Century BC

The enjoyment you will experience when you purchase Caticons will also "endure and endure". This is a book that MUST have a home on your coffee table, ready and waiting for you to "paw" through  it again and again. Gift one to your favorite cat lover, more importantly, gift one to YOURSELF.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sandy Lerner (alias Ava Farmer) has a truly cluttered past and specializes in being awkward and petting cats. While possibly best-known for founding Urban Decay,  co-founding cisco Systems, and promoting animal welfare, she has returned to her roots (pun intended), having established an organic, humane, and predator-friendly agricultural enterprise, Ayrshire Farm, and its retail division, Gentle Harvest, to promote sustainable, anti-factory farming and endangered heritage breed livestock.

In full disclosure: I was sent a copy of Caticons in exchange for my always honest review. I received no other compensation.


  1. How cool! The Caticons human had a booth at the cat show we were just at.

  2. OMG, what a wonderful book. And I'm sure the Egyptian kitty is in there, the famous one everyone shows in books. LOVE the kitty-go-round.

  3. Isn't this an amazing book? A true treasure for any cat lover, and your review is superb!

    1. Ingrid oh yes it is!!!! And...your comment just TOTALLY made my day! THANK YOU!!!! xoxoxo

  4. My goodness, that really is a most impressive collection!!!

  5. What a great looking book! Very impressive!

  6. I can feel how verklempt you are. Great job. I'd love to see the collection in person and her cats :-)

  7. What a wonderful review of what sounds like a wonderful book! I will definitely have to add this one to my collection.

  8. You do the very best reviews ever.

    I linked this post to Awww Mondays.

    I've a new website: Comedy Plus

    Have a great day, Caren. Scritches to the boys. ♥♥♥

    1. Sandee THANK YOU!! Did this as a favor...I have pretty much been phasing them off of both blogs (except for special circumstances)......much too time consuming! I deeply appreciate your comment because this one took much, much longer than most. Love you and THANK YOU!!! Going to your site now! xoxo

  9. What a beautiful book ! Great review ! Purrs

  10. What a pawtastic book! Purrfect for the cat lover.

  11. Oh! I discovered The Book of the Cat: Cats in Art, by By Angus Hyland and Caroline Roberts this weekend, but didn't buy it. "Caticons" looks far more comprehensive! Thanks for the review

  12. Wow, Caren, you made us all want this book!
    A feast for the cat lover.

  13. This book sounds fabulous! We like the photos and the quotes too! Through the window huh? Interesting!

  14. This book is definitely on my list!

  15. This sounds like an amazing book! I don't know how I haven't heard about it before.

  16. You can't go wrong when a cat is part of the element!

  17. Thank you for showing photos and exerts from the book! Your review was great!

  18. I want this book! I want the art that is in this book!
    Thanks for sharing Caren, now I gotta see if I can scrape up the dollars to but this!
    Love Barb

  19. This looks like a book I want to paw through for hours. From the chapters you've mentioned it does look like topics not covered elsewhere, or rarely and sounds a treat. Thanks for sharing!

  20. To think that hubby has not seen that book and given it to me...yet! MOL!

    What a book that makes me want to have it now so I can savor all the kittiness in it! Those persia kitties if they had blue eyes were just like Minko! Sigh...
    Thanks for sharing that book and all its treasures with us:)