The Black Cat, 1910-1911
oil on canvas
54.4 x 73 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 6441)
© Estate of Gino Severini / ADAGP (Paris) / SODRAC (Montréal)
Gino Severini was affiliated with the Italian Futurists, an avant-garde movement that was inspired by transformations in the urban landscape. In their quest for modernity, the Futurists depicted the speed and energy of the newly mechanized world of the early twentieth century. "The Black Cat" was included in the first Futurist exhibition of 1912 in Paris, and its title links it to Le Chat Noir, a famous Paris cabaret. The scene represented is based on a story by Edgar Allen Poe about a drunkard who blinds and later kills his cat, an action that ultimately culminates in revenge by another cat. Severini isolates the most crucial and dramatic elements of the story - the wine glass and the cats' piercing stares - giving the narrative elements a spatial simultaneity characteristic of the Futurists.