My Wife's Lovers, by Carl Kahler
Photo: Carl Kahler, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

“My Wife’s Lovers”, seen above, was commissioned by philanthropist Kate Birdsall Johnson in the 1890s.

Like so many of us, Kate was a notorious cat hoarder.

It isn’t entirely clear how many cats she had roaming around her 3,000-acre property in Buena Vista, California. Some say the number was as high as 350. But others believe it to be closer to 46.

This painting shows the 42 Persian and Turkish Angora kitties that Kate deemed most worthy of portraiture.

Sitting smackdab in the middle of this masterpiece is a cat named Sultan. Kate picked up Sultan during a jaunt to Paris, shelling out $3,000 for that handsome furbaby. 

Kate died just a few short years after artist Carl Kahler finished painting “My Wife’s Lover’s” — but this incredible work of art continues to earn awe and admiration.

In 2015, Sotheby’s sold “My Wife’s Lovers” at auction for $826,000. At six feet tall, 8.5 feet wide, and nearly 230 pounds, this sale cemented the painting’s place in history as the world's greatest cat painting.

Meet The World’s Greatest Cat Painter

Kate Birdsall Johnson deserves plenty of praise for commissioning this masterpiece, but the unsung hero of this story is Carl Kahler. 

Originally from Austria, Carl met Kate during a visit to San Francisco. He was enroute to Wyoming to paint the beautiful landscapes of Yosemite, but he put those plans on hold after Kate offered him $5,000 to paint her cat crew instead.

Carl wasn’t much of a cat guy; he was far more familiar with horses. But Kate made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. 

Carl took up residence at Kate's ranch for three years, immersed himself in her cat community, and grew intimately familiar with each of his subjects. Before starting “My Wife’s Lovers”, he honed his craft by painting a series of small and medium-sized cat portraits.  

It is unclear if Carl ever saw Yosemite after finishing the world’s greatest cat painting, but it's safe to say he found his cat calling. He continued to paint cat portraits up until his death in 1906.

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This siamese feline might not have roamed Kate's ranch, but it would look lovely on your living room wall.