Old Possum’s Book of … Andy Warhol’s Cats?

THE DAILY PIC: Strange bedfellows of 1957: A 'Sports Illustrated' feature on T.S. Eliot's cat poems with illustrations by Warhol.

THE DAILY PIC (#1692): I swear this is true: A little while ago, when the new version of the musical “Cats,” started being advertised in New York, I thought to myself, “Someone should use Andy Warhol’s 1950s cat drawings as illustrations for T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” – the volume of verse the musical is based on. “It’s a perfect match.”

I was right, but unfortunately the idea had already come to someone else: Andy Warhol. A little while ago, in the course of combing through his financial documents, I came across an invoice for $300 he’d sent out on Jan. 29, 1957, for “3 Cats for ts Elliot poems,” for publication in (wait for it) a quite new magazine called Sports Illustrated – which at that point was un-macho enough to publish quaint poems about cats illustrated by the least sporty male on the planet. With help from Paul Maréchal, the expert on Warhol’s magazine illustrations, I tracked down the original pages – and voila, today’s Daily Pic. (Click on the image below to zoom in.)

And now that Warhol started the ball rolling, it’s pretty obvious that the Eliot and Warhol estates had better join forces to illustrate the remaining poems in Old Possum’s, using some of the rest of Warhol’s cat pictures.

(And here’s something for total Warhol geeks: The SI image adds to a growing pile of evidence that Warhol’s book called 25 Cats Name Sam was not published in 1954 or 55, as has always been said, but very late in 1956 – since one of the felines on the Eliot page is also in the cat book. For more conclusive evidence – on this admittedly trivial point – wait for my Warhol bio.)

(©The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)


For a full survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

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