Artwork of the Month: April

April's Artwork of the Month has been chosen by Janette Kerr PPRWA. She has picked Spring Morning by Coral Nerelle from the RWA Permanent Collection. Janette writes:

My beautiful black cat Whitby died this week. A few days later I was asked to select an artwork of the month from the RWA Permanent Collection. In homage to my cat I have chosen a painting that includes a feline friend. 

Cats occupy places in our lives; some choose to be disdainful and distant, appearing only when they expect to be feed, tolerating the occasional stroke. But others, like Whitby, demand more and give more to us.

My cat was nearly 19 when she died, her lying peacefully in her basket as if asleep. Whitby was a remarkable cat, travelling with us as far north as Shetland and south to Cape Cornwall; she took it all in her stride. She was always there when we woke up, sitting with us for breakfast, on the sofa with us in the evenings, sharing a space at the end of the bed at night. She was the most companionable cat we've ever known, letting her go is the saddest thing. Her passing has left a huge and irreplaceable hole in our family.

I don’t know what Coral’s relationship with her cat was, but the same cat appears in several paintings, so we can assume that it was significant in her life. In Spring Morning there is the cat, occupying a central position in the picture as both the seated woman with her open book and cat mid-pace across the table have stopped their activities; something has arrested their gaze, perhaps a sudden noise, a flock of birds, a passerby, someone arriving. The cat’s presence on the table is clearly indulged, perhaps a familiar occurrence. There is an air of ease; complementary softly glowing pinks and grey/greens, delicate impressionist paintwork, suggests opulence, a comfortable existence. Faces are distracting so the effect created of placing two bodies in the frame, but having them turned away from the viewer to look outside rather than meeting your gaze, helps equalise the picture space.  Woman and cat become equally weighted objects in it, achieved too by painting everything with an equal brush.

Nerelle lived an interesting life; born in Sydney she trained at Sydney College of Art. During the war she volunteered for the RAAF, preparing coloured maps for the bombers. She helped with plastic surgery in the military hospital, using her training in sculpture to design new noses, ears and jaws for the wounded, making studies of  new plastic surgery techniques. Moving to the USA in 1946, Nerelle undertook three years of medical training; again making drawings for the surgical team.

Marrying John Bill RWA, a landscape painter and Cotswold art teacher, the couple moved to Gloucestershire in 1965. I like to think that the cat lived here with them, and shared their lives.

Nerelle was elected a RWA Academician in 1986 just before she died aged 77.

"The art is not one of forgetting but of letting go."

Coral Nerelle's painting will be on display on our upstairs landing throughout the month of April.