The Cat Story Behind This Painting

Philip Koch, Lizzie's Day, oil on canvas, 18 x 16", 1980

Above is an oil I look at with wistful recollection. Hanging in my hallway it greets me when I come home. I did it on location in the Cylburn Arboretum in Baltimore. I had started it during a string of exceptionally beautiful Fall mornings. It went well and I decided to add something to anchor the empty forgeground. I persuaded my then girlfriend Alice to model for me out at the park that coming weekend. 

When I met Alice she had emerged from a difficult period in her life and had even had a close call with a life threatening illness. Through these times she explained to me that she had felt the most comforted by, of all things, her cat Liz. Unfailingly devoted to Alice, Liz would always end up near her, offering that mysterious companionship that cats can be so good at. Liz of course would listen and to Alice's mind, Liz understood.

The same week I was working on the Arboretum painting Liz took seriously ill. Upon examination the vet was pessimistic but had us leave Liz overnight at his clinic for observation. Glumly we left and drove to park to have Alice model, both of us suspecting we wouldn't be seeing Liz again.

The autumn light that morning was shining down on us and the trees through a barely perceptible mist. It lent a quiet glow to everything it touched. It was quiet and stunningly beautiful and both of us felt comfort from that. Liz died the next day.

I wanted to somehow honor this small cat who had been such a confidant to Alice so I chose the title Lizzie's Day for the little canvas. Still have it as it has too many memories to put it on the market.

Three years later I did an expanded version of that painting. I wondered if I should also title it Lizzie's Day. Liz though was an authentic and modest girl. I think she would have wanted just one painting named for her. 

Philip Koch, Bright October Day, oil on canvas, 54 x 48", 1983
(Detail below)


  1. I love this painting and sensed immediately the pathos of this scene. Thought there might be something emotionally charged in the air. Yes, you should definitely not sell this one. too personal. thanks for sharing this heartwrenching story makes the painting even more meaningful.

  2. Dear nean, thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. I promise not to see this painting.


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