LOUIS WAIN

THE MAN WHO DREW CATS

Our history lesson for the day… ha.

For those of you who are not familiar with Louis Wain, he was an English artist who was mostly famous for his drawings and paintings of cats in the Victorian era.

Wain’s creations were born of his efforts to amuse his wife as she was dying of breast cancer. He would continuously draw their cat, Peter, in a cartoonish fashion. Over the years the drawings became more playful as they would wear eye glasses, stand upright, and wear contemporary clothes. They also engaged in activities such as smoking, fishing, drinking tea, and playing instruments.

His work was wildly popular for years. Eventually he got taken advantage of in various investment opportunities and his health began to suffer. He was soon diagnosed with schizophrenia and interred at a mental hospital. Throughout his stay at the hospital, Wain continued to paint. His cats became more abstract and less whimsical. His once playful cats began to resemble fearsome, almost kaleidoscopic, Hindu deities. Many psychological textbooks feature drawings from various stages in the artist’s career to show the progression of Wain’s schizophrenia. You can see the progression (below) through the stages of his illness.

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