LOUIS WAIN (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.

Coastal & ShoreVillagesSingingVictorian - Paintings & Drawings
RabbitsHumour & SatireCatsFamily
DiningFiguresCowsIllustrations
A STORY WITHOUT WORDS (1)
 by LOUIS WAIN

A STORY WITHOUT WORDS (1)

A STORY WITHOUT WORDS (2) by LOUIS WAIN

A STORY WITHOUT WORDS (2)

CATS BY THE SEASIDE by LOUIS WAIN

CATS BY THE SEASIDE

RABBIT PELMET by LOUIS WAIN

RABBIT PELMET

MILKING TIME by LOUIS WAIN

MILKING TIME

THE RHUBARB PATCH by LOUIS WAIN

THE RHUBARB PATCH

TOMMIE MEETS THE GREAT MAGICIAN WHO ASKS HIM TO FALL ASLEEP WHEN
HE WILL AWAKE IN HOLLAND by LOUIS WAIN

TOMMIE MEETS THE GREAT MAGICIAN WHO ASKS HIM TO FALL ASLEEP WHEN HE WILL AWAKE IN HOLLAND

THE PLAY PROWL  by LOUIS WAIN

THE PLAY PROWL

LADY GODIVA, A COVENTRY MISCELLANY by LOUIS WAIN

LADY GODIVA, A COVENTRY MISCELLANY

OLD SONG: "THE SONG THAT REACHED MY HEART." by LOUIS WAIN

OLD SONG: "THE SONG THAT REACHED MY HEART."

HURRAH - I AM BACK HOME AGAIN by LOUIS WAIN

HURRAH - I AM BACK HOME AGAIN

WHITE TIE CATS by LOUIS WAIN

WHITE TIE CATS

ALLOW ME TO OFFER YOU MY ARM.
I DO NOT LIKE TO TAKE IT.  WHY, OH WHY?

 by LOUIS WAIN

ALLOW ME TO OFFER YOU MY ARM. I DO NOT LIKE TO TAKE IT. WHY, OH WHY?

NOW WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR MOTHER? IS SHE NOT SPLENDID? by LOUIS WAIN

NOW WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR MOTHER? IS SHE NOT SPLENDID?

OH I'M NOT SURE! by LOUIS WAIN

OH I'M NOT SURE!

TOMMY WAS CAUGHT AMONGST THE CACTI by LOUIS WAIN

TOMMY WAS CAUGHT AMONGST THE CACTI

HE GOES OUT MOUSE SHOOTING by LOUIS WAIN

HE GOES OUT MOUSE SHOOTING

THE TIMETABLE by LOUIS WAIN

THE TIMETABLE

THE GARDEN PARTY by LOUIS WAIN

THE GARDEN PARTY

OHH, IT'S A FINE MOUSE by LOUIS WAIN

OHH, IT'S A FINE MOUSE

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