November 18, 2006

Louis Wain's Cats


An example of schizophrenic creativity out of control...You can see the progressive deterioration of his vision of "cat" as his insanity gets worse and worse.

Posted by pamwagg at November 18, 2006 08:08 PM


There is a fine line between genius and madness, an undefinable grey area between sanity and insanity, study great authors/artists and find that V, Woolf was manic depressive, Nash was schiz, kurulek etc... all of the great ones have a madness asylum in thier head somewhere, thier inspirations often comes from it too.

Posted by: sagun at January 3, 2008 10:16 AM

As a fan and collector of Louis Wain Art I thought it may be of interest to know a bit more about Louis Wain from here in England where he was born.

Louis Wain 1860-1939 Funny Cats and Dogs Art Lifestory.

Louis Wain was born in London's Clerkenwell district in 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 Foundation, Hackney, and at St Joseph's Academy, Kennington. He trained at the West London School of Art (1877-80), remaining there as an assistant teacher until 1882. From his father's death in 1880, he had to support first his mother and five younger Sisters.

He married his youngest sister's governess, Emily Richardson, which was considered quite scandalous at the time. His wife contracted breast cancer and died three years later. To entertain her on her sickbed, Louis Wain started drawing their cat, Peter. Emily encouraged him to send these drawings to newspapers and magazines, and soon the Louis Wain cat was a household name, not only in Britain but also in America, where his comics and drawings of cats appeared in several newspapers.

Louis Wain was elected as President of the National Cat Club and wrote the book 'In Animal Land with Louis Wain' in 1904.

In 1906 he linked up with a local pottery and had produced various types of pottery in the form of his Funnycats. He decided to send them to America where he was hoping to make his fortune but alas, the ship they were on sank and he lost his whole cargo. After this disaster Louis Wain continued drawing cats for newspapers and children's books, however, he was not a good businessman, and in 1907 he was 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 Newspaper(1907-10).

When he returned to England he experimented with animation and in 1917, in a film to be called Pussyfoot he again put lots of his money into the project but alas, he ran out of money and couldn't proceed with the project. In the same year his sister caroline died and the first signs of his mental illness started to appear (He was seen talking to Cats and Animals).

He continued to sell his Funny Cats Artwork to his adoring public until he fell victim to schizophrenia in 1923 at the age of 57 ( His sisters always reckoned that his Mental problems started after he fell off a London Omnibus and hit his head in 1917 ) .

His decline started during WWI and the public's dwindling interest in cats, Louis Wain soon fell into poverty and eventually, in June 1924, he was certified insane and committed to Springfield Hospital (the former Surrey County Asylum) at Tooting. 'Discovered' here the following year, he was transferred to Bethlem Hospital after a campaign by admirers of his work, including the Prime Minister Ramsey Macdonald,King George V and H.G.Wells. The Hospital was at that time at St George's Fields, Southwark. In 1930 Louis Wain was transferred to Napsbury Hospital , near St Albans .

He continued drawing until near the end of his life, and exhibitions of his work were held in London in 1931 and 1937. He died at Napsbury on 4 July 1939.

Louis Wain was buried in the same Grave as his mother,father and 5 sisters at St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery,Harrow Road,London in July 1939. At my website I have over 100 of his works on display and so please enjoy your fun visit:** **

Author Paul Hussey

Posted by: Paul Hussey at December 18, 2007 03:31 PM

Back in the mid 60's I saw other pictures of Wain's cats in a pharmaceutical publication called Abbot Tempo. Does anyone remember these and are those shots still available? They were very interesting. Not exactly like the ones at the top of this page.

Posted by: Rich at July 27, 2007 10:38 PM

The more distorted images of cats are both beautiful to me and disturbing. How far in we can go when we have a mental illness. I feel a bit of envy for those brilliant yet mentally stable people out there. What a joy to go so far and not get lost in the maze. But it is even more amazing that someone like this artist could be so creative despite his schizophrenia. That shows to me a definite strength of spirit. I'd like to check out more of his work.

Posted by: Kate K. at November 24, 2006 12:07 AM

Hi all,

Yeah, I know. But what if he *wanted* to be drawing a realistic cat? What if he didn't understand that he was not? Anyhow, my point was only that "cat" devolved into incoherence, not that it wasn't "art." Art need not be coherent, that's part of the beauty of it; it can simply be evocative. Even poetry can be more evocative than coherent, though it should not be merely words vomited onto the page, not IMHO.

Posted by: Moi at November 20, 2006 03:58 PM

who is to say that painting that looks like a cat is sane?

we have such narrow visions of sanity in our society!

Posted by: m at November 19, 2006 09:28 PM


Is that for real? If so I think - the more insane, the better the art...

Posted by: Barbara at November 19, 2006 12:00 AM

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