Celebrate National Cat Lovers Month with ‘Kittens’

By Daniel Fulco, Ph.D., Agnita M. Stine Schreiber Curator

In celebration of National Cat Lovers Month, we hope that you enjoy this painting from the collection.


Charles van den Eycken II (Belgian, 1859–1923)
Kittens, 1899
Oil on canvas
25.5″h x 21″w
Collection of Washington County Museum of Fine Arts
Gift of Dr. & Mrs. Harry Bowman, A1651,71.0023

In this tender work, Charles van den Eycken lovingly depicted a group of playful kittens (along with their mother) gathered on top of a table. Combining portraiture with detailed still life elements in one composition, the artist captured a moment in time, one in which the animals have paused their activities. One kitten rests on its back, paws in the air, while the mother and another cat look down at their companion from above. To the right, another kitten prepares to take several steps, as indicated by its raised paw. By including roses (symbolic of love and affection) as well as luxury objects such as the elaborate carpet, small chest (filled with necklace chains), and a pink fan, van den Eycken conveys the opulence of the setting, something that appealed to wealthy European and American collectors (and cat owners) during the Victorian era.

Known for his detailed genre and interior paintings, which frequently featured animals, van den Eycken specialized in painting cats and dogs. He first received art instruction from his father (also named Charles, 1809–91), a landscape painter. Subsequently, Charles, Jr. studied with Joseph Edouard Stevens (1816–92), a Realist animal painter and engraver, at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Beginning in 1881, van den Eycken exhibited regularly in the Salons of Brussels, Liège, Ghent, and Antwerp, as well as in the Netherlands, Germany and Spain. In addition, he was a member of the artist group l’Essor (which included Realists and Impressionists), painted pictures for Queen Marie-Henriette of Belgium (1836–1902), and was awarded several medals for his work.

This WeekendArt is sponsored by Mrs. Jeannette Rinehart