LOUIS WAIN & THE CAT SHOW 2017 : WAIN, LOUIS (1860-1939)

At the turn of the century, Louis Wain became a household name as ‘The Man Who Drew Cats’. His drawings of cats appeared in periodicals and his own annuals and then, increasingly on prints and postcards. read more...
At the turn of the century, Louis Wain became a household name as ‘The Man Who Drew Cats’. His drawings of cats appeared in periodicals and his own annuals and then, increasingly on prints and postcards. While his early work was already distinctive, in a gently humorous way, the onset of schizophrenia gradually transformed his style, making it bright, highly patterned and apparently in keeping with Jazz Age Modernism.

Louis Wain was born in London on 5 August 1860. His father was a textile salesman and his mother designed carpets and church fabrics. A sickly child, he was educated at the Orchard Street Boys and Infant School, South Hackney, and at St Joseph’s Academy, Kennington. He trained at the West London School of Art (1877-80), remaining there as an assistant master until 1882. From his father’s death in 1880, he had to support first his mother and five younger sisters and soon after a sick wife. He supplemented his income by working as a freelance illustrator (initially influenced by Caldecott and May), and in 1882 he joined the staff of the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News. He began to make his name with humorous cat drawings, primarily in the Illustrated London News, the staff of which he joined in 1886. He was the first to work consistently within the convention of depicting clothed and standing animals. His anthropomorphic vision of the world soon brought him much fame and as a result he was elected President of the National Cat Club in 1891. However, he was not a good businessman, and in 1907 he may have been sued for debt. In the same year, he moved to the United States to make a new start, producing strip cartoons for the New York American (1907-10). Back in England, he experimented with animation in 1917, in the films, The Golfing Cat and The Hunter and the Dog. After the death of his sister Caroline in the same year, he began to suffer a mental decline, becoming a schizophrenic, as his work clearly revealed. ‘His cats became frenzied and jagged, sometimes disappearing into kaleidoscopic shapes’ (Frances Spalding). When, in 1925, he was found in the paupers’ ward of Middlesex County Asylum, an appeal was launched on his behalf, and he was transferred to a comfortable room with his paints in the Bethlem Royal Hospital, Southwark. The appeal reached twice the target sum in a month, a sign of the public’s continuing affection. He died in the Middlesex County Asylum, Napsbury, near St Albans, on 4 July 1939.
WHEN WILL THE MILK ARRIVE? by LOUIS WAIN

WHEN WILL THE MILK ARRIVE?

A GOLFING MATCH by LOUIS WAIN

A GOLFING MATCH

OF THE HIGHEST PEDIGREE by LOUIS WAIN

OF THE HIGHEST PEDIGREE

PORTRAIT OF A LITERARY ORANGE CAT by LOUIS WAIN

PORTRAIT OF A LITERARY ORANGE CAT

EVERYTHING [I] WANTED TO WRITE IS ON THE TOP FLOOR OF MY BEING, ONLY NO BLACK SMEAR OF INK FROM THE BRAIN IS GIVEN OUT TO WRITE MY BEING'S CLEAR & CLEVER COURSE OF LIFE & THEREFORE MY PEN IS A FORSAKEN OBJECT by LOUIS WAIN

EVERYTHING [I] WANTED TO WRITE IS ON THE TOP FLOOR OF MY BEING, ONLY NO BLACK SMEAR OF INK FROM THE BRAIN IS GIVEN OUT TO WRITE MY BEING'S CLEAR & CLEVER COURSE OF LIFE & THEREFORE MY PEN IS A FORSAKEN OBJECT

A GATHERING AT FLORIAN'S
NO 1. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PLAY?
NO 2. MOTHER! THEY HAVE NOT GIVEN ME A PART
NO 1. I WILL GO AND SEE IT THEN by LOUIS WAIN

A GATHERING AT FLORIAN'S NO 1. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PLAY? NO 2. MOTHER! THEY HAVE NOT GIVEN ME A PART NO 1. I WILL GO AND SEE IT THEN

LOOKING GLASS by LOUIS WAIN

LOOKING GLASS

'HANG THE COUNCIL,' SAID JUMPY WUMPY by LOUIS WAIN

'HANG THE COUNCIL,' SAID JUMPY WUMPY

THE BEAUTY CHORUS by LOUIS WAIN

THE BEAUTY CHORUS

SHORTEARS BEGAN AND SUNG A SOLO. THEN ALL THE CATS JOINED AND SUNG THE CHORUS TO MADAME'S SATISFACTION by LOUIS WAIN

SHORTEARS BEGAN AND SUNG A SOLO. THEN ALL THE CATS JOINED AND SUNG THE CHORUS TO MADAME'S SATISFACTION

THE KING AND PUSS IN BOOTS by LOUIS WAIN

THE KING AND PUSS IN BOOTS

THE GREY PERSIAN by LOUIS WAIN

THE GREY PERSIAN

PETER by LOUIS WAIN

PETER

WHO SAID MOUSE by LOUIS WAIN

WHO SAID MOUSE

CATS FISHING
HELP
A TERRIBLE FIGHT
A MARVELLOUS CATCH
HERO WORSHIP by LOUIS WAIN

CATS FISHING HELP A TERRIBLE FIGHT A MARVELLOUS CATCH HERO WORSHIP

AMAZED by LOUIS WAIN

AMAZED

GREEN EYED CAT by LOUIS WAIN

GREEN EYED CAT

SULTRY GREEN EYED CAT by LOUIS WAIN

SULTRY GREEN EYED CAT

YELLOW EYED CAT by LOUIS WAIN

YELLOW EYED CAT

LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST by LOUIS WAIN

LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST