Kate Birdsall Biography & Facts
My Wife's Lovers is a canvas painting by Austrian artist Carl Kahler (1855–1906) depicting forty-two of American millionaire Kate Birdsall Johnson's Turkish Angora cats. The title of the painting was potentially conceived by her husband, who may have referred to the cats with the phrase. Measuring 6 by 8.5 feet (1.8 m × 2.6 m), the canvas weighs 227 pounds (103 kg).
Johnson, who owned 350 cats that she housed in her summer house Buena Vista near Sonoma, California, commissioned the painting in 1891. Having never painted a cat before, Kahler spent three years studying cat poses and learning their habits. He reportedly received around $5,000 for the painting (equivalent to $140,000 in 2019). The center of the painting shows her cat Sultan, bought by Johnson during a trip to Paris. Johnson lent the painting for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, and in the next year it was acquired by Ernest Haquette for his Palace of Art Salon in San Francisco. While the salon was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the painting survived it.
Purchases and display
My Wife's Lovers subsequently hung in Frank C. Havens' Piedmont Art Gallery in Piedmont, California, and was later purchased by a couple from Chicago. In November 2015, the painting was sold at Sotheby's to a private California buyer for $826,000.In 2016, the Portland Art Museum displayed the piece between February 2 and June 8, 2016 and partnered with the Oregon Humane Society to raise awareness of cat adoptions.
First Look: Carl Kahler, 'My Wife’s Lovers' on Sotheby's
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