Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin

Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin

by Marguerite Henry, Wesley Dennis
Publisher: Bobbs-Merril Co
©1947, Item: 67999
Hardcover, 147 pages
Not in stock

Historical Setting: Pennsylvania, 1740s A. D.

If you pair a lively boy and a saucy cat, you may expect mischief. And mischief it was of a sort. But their close friendship helped to create a young artist who, in later life, became world famous as the Father of American Painting.

There is no logical explanation for the boy's genius. When only seven, this ordinary Quaker lad suddenly developed a strange urge and a stranger gift for drawing pictures. Yet he had never seen a picture until he himself made one! At first he was satisfied to use a goose-quill pen and somber black ink. But red foxes, green frogs, and autumn leaves demanded color. So Benjamin sought out his friends the Indians, who showed him how to dig his colors from the earth.

The boy's parents were shocked when they discovered their son's paintings. Being Quakers in eighteenth-century America, they believed all pictures were needless, gaudy, worldly.

But genius is not easily crushed. Did Grimalkin, the cat, sense this? We do not have the answer. But we do know that the temperamental cat furnished, from his own tail, the hairs for Benjamin's paint brushes. And often his antics suggested the liveliest of pictures. By stretching our imagination a bit, we can see that it was the cat who urged the boy on to his life's work.

Benjamin West grew up to become famous as an historical painter and the only American to be honored as president of the English Royal Academy of Arts. But he never forgot Grimalkin. As an aged man, he spoke nostalgically of the cat who was the constant companion of his boyhood and the early inspiration for his art. 

Marguerite Henry has taken the facts and woven them into a story as bright as an October morning. It is gentle, warm, humorous, and historically sure. Wesley Dennis, who did the illustrations, proved that his brush—so capable with horses and dogs—was equally adept in catching the moods of a gleeful boy and a whimsical cat.

—from the dust jacket

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