Richard Saunders once saw an ornamental shrub and was struck by how its shape resembled his beloved pet cat while asleep. Now the images he creates replacing real-life bushes with his pet’s feline form have reached millions of people around the globe.
The topiary inspired the first image Richard Saunders created at Hall Barn in Beaconsfield.
Imagine walking through a beautiful English country garden, turning a corner, and seeing a gigantic, perfectly-manicured cat sculpted from lush green bushes lazing next to a lake. Taken from the mind of a “surrealist” artist from Stapleford, Hertfordshire – and rendered into high-quality fantastical images – the topiary cat has been taking social media by storm.
The creator of the digitally-altered cat topiaries said he often tried to correct people who thought they were real.
The pictures all feature Tolly, a Russian Blue owned by 69-year-old Mr. Saunders.
The first image he created took a picture of his beloved pet – who died in February – and cropped it into a photograph he took at Hall Barn in Beaconsfield, where he had spotted a topiary shaped like a cloud. “It reminded me of an animal sleeping, and I thought, ‘you could change that into a cat quite easily,” Mr. Saunders recalled.
More than three million people saw one of Mr. Saunders’ images online.
One of his later images, which depicted a cat drinking water from a lake at Painshill in Surrey, was seen by 3.25m people on Facebook. “I’m fascinated by how things go viral – I never planned to make any money from the project. It’s just a bit of fun,” Mr. Saunders said.
Mr. Saunders said creating topiary cats was a way of remembering his cat Tolly, who died earlier this year.
He said he always made it “very clear” that the topiary cats dotted around country estates were not real, but “about 25%” of people who saw them believed they existed. Comments on The Topiary Cat’s Facebook page speak of how users “wish they were possible” or are “captivated” by the “inspired pictures.”
Mr. Saunders said he always tells people who think they are authentic, adding that he would “rather be known for my art topiary cats than my deception.”
“I try to correct people, but sometimes they don’t want to know and want to keep believing they’re real,” he said.
Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to our top stories.