The "World's Greatest Cat Painting" Is Coming to the Portland Art Museum

Long before the masses shared their cat photos on Facebook, aristocrats commissioned oil paintings.

By Marty Patail January 22, 2016

Carlkahler mywifeslovers 1  hcywhv

Portland Art Museum just announced the expected arrival of what they're calling “the world's greatest cat painting."

Starting Wednesday, January 27, Portlanders can view Carl Kahler’s 1891 My Wife’s Lovers—an enormous 6' x 8.5' painting originally commissioned by San Francisco philanthropist Kate Birdsall Johnson in honor of 42 of her Angora and Persian cats. (The title is a nickname her husband gave to the cats before he died, two years earlier.)

In the center of My Wife's Lovers sits an especially regal Persian named Sultan. Johnson traveled to Paris and paid $3,000 for him, according to one source

Later accounts claimed Birdsall Johnson had more than 350 cats total, and left $500,000 for the care when she died. 

“The painting has inspired a number of absurd legends,” says curator Dawson Carr in a press release. “In fact, there were never many more animals than those depicted here. Johnson left a modest amount to a relative for their maintenance. Her principal bequest established a hospital for disadvantaged women and children in San Francisco.”

Still, that's a lot of cats, yo.

The truck carrying the painting is currently delayed due to bad weather, but the museum expects it to arrive in Portland on Monday, in time for a public unveiling on Wednesday, Jan. 27. In the meantime, the museum hopes to get two hashtags trending: #meowsterpiece and #purrtlandartmuseum. 

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