Courbet’s ‘Woman With a Cat’ spurred by competition

Worcester Art Museum

WORCESTER — This adorable picture of a fluffy white kitten in the arms of a comely, blurry-eyed young woman who seems to want you to come back to bed, was painted by Gustave Courbet, the father of 19th-century Realism, in 1864.

That was two years after Courbet’s one-time protégé, James Whistler, painted “Symphony in White,” a celebrated work otherwise known as “The White Girl.” And it was a year before Edouard Manet, Whistler’s friend and Courbet’s sometime rival, painted “The Reading,” a study of his wife, Suzanne, in a white dress on a white sofa against white, transparent curtains.

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