Although cats and our native birds must be kept apart in the real world of Canberra here in the surreal world of this column we can (as you can see from today's two gripping pictures) allow them to rub shoulders.
More of Carl Kahler's painting My Wife's Lovers, authoritativelycommended as the world's greatest painting of cats, in a moment.
First, though, to one of this season's greatest photographs of cockatoos.
Tuesday's riveting column made one of our hardy annual references to the overwhelming "left-handedness" of the ACT's cockatoos. This is a good time of year to observe that scientifically verified phenomenon, Canberra's trees brandishing the sorts of comestibles that cockatoos love.
"Yes," Penny Bowen of Chisholm confirms, "they're left handed for sure."
"Here you see] a cockie helping to clear up some of our surplus apricots just before the ACT Monsoon Season set in. Having demolished the apricots, he and his mates are currently working on [our] peaches ..."
Our painting of cats (count the brutes, how many can you see?) was already newsworthy because it was recently bought by rich Californians at a Sotheby's auction. Now the Californians in their magnanimity have just loaned it to the rejoicing Portland Art Museum. It is to go on display there any minute now.
Perhaps the rich Californians, a Mr and Mrs Mozart, don't have enough room for it at their place. My Wife's Lovers is chunky in the extreme.
The indispensable online arts newspaper Art Daily reports the Portland Art Museum's exciting news http://artdaily.com/news/84778/World-s-greatest-cat-painting-on-view-at-Portland-Art-Museum#.VrFllJ24a1s and explains that "Carl Kahler's My Wife's Lovers is a massive painting commissioned by San Francisco philanthropist Kate Birdsall Johnson in 1891".
"The massive [1.8 metres by 2.6 metres] canvas, which features 42 of the millionaire's beloved cats, was seen at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and now makes a stop in one of the cat-friendliest cities [Portland] in the country.
"My Wife's Lovers was commissioned by San Francisco millionaire Kate Birdsall Johnson (1833–1894) to commemorate her fabulous collection of 42 Persian and Angora cats. She met the artist and world traveller Carl Kahler in 1890, shortly after he arrived in California from Australia, where he had earned fame painting portraits and horse racing scenes. Johnson persuaded him to portray her beloved pets and he spent months studying them in preparatory sketches and paintings. In the finished composition, he depicted the cats larger than life size.
"The artist perished in the earthquake of 1906. His painting survived that disaster and, in 1949, Cat Magazine lauded it as 'the world's greatest painting of cats'."
" 'Carl Kahler's cat painting is a truly monumental homage to the species,' says the Portland Gallery's Dawson Carr, Ph.D., [the gallery's] Curator of European Art."
Eerily My Wife's Lovers is one of those action-packed, living paintings in which there is constant coming and going, and in which there are new things to see every day. There was no moth in the painting when we first saw it on Tuesday but by Wednesday one had fluttered into the painting and was fascinating some of the lovers..
The fact of My Wife's Lovers being on display at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair encourages the thought that "our" Walter Burley Griffin (with Marion Mahony Griffin the dreamer who dreamed of our city) may have seen it. Griffins' biographer Alasdair McGregor writes that Walter, 17, and his brother Ralph, 15, haunted the fair,
"The two lads found the Ferris wheel the most exciting offering there and returned to it again and again."
No wonder they found it exciting. This was the first ever Ferris wheel, and, standing 264 feet (80 metres) tall and capable of thrilling 2160 passengers at a time, it was one of the engineering wonders of the world.
And McGregor is sure that for Walter there was more to the wheel-riding than just a boy's love of a good buzz.
"They rode the great wheel, mesmerised by views from high above the growing city. But it was the [Fair's] setting - the landscaped pleasure gardens sprawling over the 600-acre site - that could only be fully comprehended from on high. The eager Walter set his inquisitive gaze on a network of formal axes and vistas, woodlands, pathways, ponds, ornamental lakes and islands."
It is a lovely thought that the federal capital city that Walter imagined for us owes something to the view from a Ferris wheel.
This column is fond of preaching that to qualify as a real city a metropolis must have, as Canberra does, a fine symphony orchestra and a national league ice hockey. Perhaps, though, to be a true city a metropolis should as well have a terrific Ferris wheel. There is a hard-to-define something about them, something suggestive of sophisticated frivolity. They give character to a skyline.
Needless to say Melbourne, that most broad-shouldered of Australian cities, has a beauty, while other great Ferris-festooned cities include London, Vienna (theirs is a heritage wheel of great antiquity), and Singapore.
Chief Minister Barr, we dare to dream of Canberra having a grand, permanent Ferris wheel (the little, toy, temporary one at Floriade doesn't count). Why not take the joyous promise of one to the fun-loving electors - people of our territory - at this year's ACT elections?