Before Internet Cats: Feline Finds from the Archives of American Art


Long before cats clawed their way onto the Internet, they made themselves at home in the Archives of American Art. This exhibition explores the myriad ways in which cats are represented in rare documents like sketches and drawings, letters, and photographs from the nineteenth century through early 2000s. Whether expressive or aloof, the contradictory attitudes of cats make them compelling artists’ muses. They are often the playful subjects of artworks, humorous topics of conversation, independent studio companions, and beloved members of the family. The records on view reflect our enduring fascination with felines.

While cats are certainly among the more adorable findings in our collections, they represent just a fraction of our vast resources. With more than twenty million items, the Archives of American Art is the world’s largest research center dedicated to documenting the history of the visual arts in the United States. The Archives’ holdings preserve the nation’s artistic heritage and also chronicle the personal stories of American artists over the past two hundred years.

How to Explore this Exhibition

In-person: Before Internet Cats: Feline Finds from the Archives of American Art is on view at the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery in Washington, D.C. April 28–October 29, 2017

Online: To explore collection items in this exhibition, use the navigation options in the sidebar under the "Contents of Exhibition" heading.