CATS, A PORTFOLIO (1943)

CATS, a deluxe portfolio (1943), was published by Harper in a rare response to Clare’s popularity. Her famous illustrations were printed as large portraits suitable for framing—with her suggestions on the most effective way to frame them. Clare designed all her covers and every page of her books. She also hand-lettered every book title, designing a new type style that would match the cover drawing, as well as the personality of the book’s hero or heroine. This portfolio was done with her same exacting care and was so sophisticated in its design that even ten years later, in 1953, a fashion advertisement for a silver silk suit features a model holding up Clare’s portfolio as the very essence of classic design.

I am still impressed by the cover art—the cat’s eyes not only reflect light but Clare captured the real texture of his blue irises.

The portfolio, now a collector’s item, included large (11 x 14), prints of the favorite illustrations from MITTENS, MARSHMALLOW, APRIL’S KITTENS, and BABETTE. There was also a surprise bonus, portraits of an ocelot named Pounce.

Clare really never lost her passion for large cats and wild animals. After HERBERT was published, Clare sketched lions at the Fleishhacker Zoo, and after moving to New York, she loved to draw the wild cats at the Central Park and Bronx Zoos. The introduction to her portfolio says it best:

“Mrs. Newberry’s debt to the Orient is obvious, but her third-dimensional quality is distinctly Western, as is her interest in the personality of her subjects. There is nothing impersonal about a Newberry cateach one is an individual, whose characteristic facial expressions and markings are of intense interest to her. She loves the subtle tonal gradations of the body of a Siamese or a puma, the rich pattern of the coat of an ocelot or tabby shorthair, the jewel-like contrast of a feline eye. She is, in a word, obsessed with the wild beauty of the cat tribe, and feels that a lifetime is all too short a period in which to try to do justice to it.”

 

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