March 11, 2010

Louis Wain

English illustrator Louis Wain was my kinda guy. The man liked to draw cats...I mean he really liked to draw cats. Shitloads, and shitloads, and shitloads of cats.

 A diagnosed Schizophrenic, who most likely was actually suffering from the more benign Asberger Syndrome, his story is rather a charming one. Already working as a freelance illustrator, Wain's obsession with depicting cats reportedly developed at the age of 23 when his wife developed breast cancer. To entertain and amuse his beloved on her deathbed, he would draw amusing cariacatures of their cat Peter, and teach him to perform tricks. This was followed by commissions for children's books, and later newspaper illustrations in which he depicted cats in anthropomorphic situations. These proved immensely popular, and he enjoyed fame and success for the next two decades with his drawings of cats appearing in books, papers, journals, postcards and ads.

Unfortunately like most artists Wain was not a great businessman, and after making several poor investments he ended up bankrupt. With no money and the popularity of his art dwindling, he finally succumbed to his deteriorating mental health and was admitted to an asylum at the age of 64.  Luckily for him, a visitor to the hospital spotted him drawing one day and recognised the distinctive cats as those of the legendary artist. Appalled that he would live out his final years in a public asylum, she alerted the public and started a campaign to have him relocated to a private, more pleasant facility so he could live out the rest of his days in comfort. Thanks to his loyal fans, this was able to happen and he continued to make cat art until his very last days.


"He made the cat his own. He invented a cat style, a cat society, a whole cat world. English cats that do not  look and live like Louis Wain cats are ashamed of themselves."  H.G. Wells.

No comments:

Post a Comment