Strong female characters in the work of Bristol artist Julian Quaye

A cat burglar and jewel thief, an explorer and pioneering aeronaut, an equal rights campaigner, former catnip smugglers and a ruthless leader and members of an infamous wild west gang – these are the female characters in the compelling work of anthropomorphic artist Julian Quaye.

Describing himself as the bastard great great grandson of Beatrix Potter these Victorian and Edwardian characters have a haunting presence about them.  Which fits when you see the other influences on his work from Jules Verne to Magritte to Bernie Wrightson with a touch of Edward Hopper and a huge dose of kitsch.


Here is the beautiful ‘Carolyn Ginger Grant’. ginger_web.jpg

Quaye describes her as ‘Cat burglar and jewel thief. Compromised by Albert Hitchcock of Albion Yard; to carry out the odd occasionally ‘dubious’ task. Aided by her trusty ‘Tweeters’ and cohorts the Magpies Kym and Novak.’

Matilda ‘Billy’ Maitland is the featured feline in his ‘Owl and Pussycat II’

Owl and Puss for card

Quaye describes her as an ‘intrepid explorer and pioneering aeronaut.  Who, along with the celebrated society portraitist, landscape and ornithological artist James Tiberius Starling and the renowned cartographer Garth Phineas Fullerton, mapped the virgin frozen wastes of the far north territories in their sponsored ship of the air The Enterprise.’

In the background you can also see the iconic Glastonbury Tor – showing a nod to his Westcountry routes.

His first ‘Owl and Pussycat’ was Tilly….

Owl and the pussycat

‘The independently wealthy and handsome Ms Jennifer Tilly Swain and her constant companion, confidant and messenger ‘Missy’ the owl. Ms Swain has turned down many suitors in her time. A keen ornithologist and equal rights campaigner. A thorn in the side of the old guard.’

And one of my favourites Selina in ‘Sexy Selina’


‘Miss Selina Sabine Swain – Celebrated chanteuse at ‘Lucky’ Lou’s Lounge and soon to be married to her beau Inspector Jack Aberline (the no-nonsense peeler of Albion Yard). Selina’s got a bit of a wayward past. Illegal transportation of catnip over county lines amongst others which she doesn’t want her ‘Beau’ Inspector Aberline to find out about.’

And then there is Flotsima – joint leader of the ‘Mognificent Seven’ along with a number of cross dressing female gang members.    Why have male looking characters in the painting when they are actually female?  Julian was invited to contribute work to the international art festival Urban in Ibiza – whose theme that year was Seven.  He held a competition on Facebook and Twitter for motley looking cats for his gang.  As it happened three of the cats chosen were queens so he deliciously reflected that in their story….

The Mognificent Seven

During the great war which decimated the Northern territories, many families found themselves displaced. One of those families was the Kane family, having seen their livelihood destroyed and their land illegally requisitioned by corrupt officials, they embarked on a life of bootlegging, hijacking, robbery and smuggling. 

They became folk heroes to those less fortunate, often dividing their spoils to the many desperate homesteaders they encountered on their way.  

Their exploits were avidly read and pawed over in the printed pamphlets, periodicals and listened to on the newly introduced electrical contraption ‘the voice within the box’ audiogram.  

After seven years (and an uneasy alliance with the many outlaw tortoise motorcycle gangs), they had acquired a substantial fortune which, with an eye to the future, needed investing….. So…. with the help of the shady businessman and showman Duggie Burns, they headed off to the island of Eivassa to jump the counter to legitimacy.  

So here they are, now waiting to be captured on photographic plate, in front of a painted theatrical backdrop for one of their new ventures ‘Urbane Outfitters of Eivessa – for ladies and gentlemen of distinction’.  The ‘ladies’ adopting the latest fashion of masculine dressing now prevalent within feral female feline circles.  Flotty has no truck with this, adopting a more feminine look but with her trusty rifle at hand.  As seven years as one of Albion’s most wanted makes one very twitchy and nervous.  Old habits die hard.

Flotsima and Flynstance Kane sibling leaders of the infamous Kane Gang, The Mognificent Seven.’

An interesting aside is that Ginger – featured in ‘Carolyn Ginger Grant’ was another entry but he felt she was too pretty a cat to be part of this ruffian gang, but was so captivated by her picture that he drew her anyway.  First in a pencil study….


Which he then developed into the first painting at the top of the page.


Quaye started his anthropomorphic art journey four years ago and his work was soon at auction alongside Damian Hirst fellow Bristol artist Banksy at Dreweatts London in 2012.

More about Julian and his other works can be found on his website



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