What did people do before the Internet? If you lived during the 19th century, you couldn’t take pictures of cats with a camera and post it on the Internet. Instead, you had to paint pictures of cats and share your paintings with others.

“Painting was to 19th-century people what the internet is to us today,” says Madalina Lazen, a senior specialist in 19th-century paintings at Bonhams. “Painters who traveled would bring back paintings of what they had seen.” Not surprisingly, what people wanted to see back in the 19th century was no different to what people want to see today, which is cats.

To learn about 19th century painters who specialized in painting cats, click here.