2.20.2009

A Man Who Drew Cats

Louis Wain, artist, in the 1890s

Louis Wain (1860-1939) was an artist most well-known for his drawings of cats. He was a regular contributor to the Illustrated London News, where his first cat drawings appeared in 1886, and illustrator of over 100 children's books. Anthropomorphized drawings of animals were so popular in Victorian England that his work appeared in papers, journals, and magazines, as well as on prints, greeting cards, and picture postcards.


Wain was socially awkward, lousy with money, and experienced major tragedy early his life. He had married at 23, but his wife died of cancer three years later. Their black and white cat Peter was a close companion during her illness and subsequent passing, and Wain credited Peter with the beginning of his career.

"The Cat in His Garden"


"Which Do I Love Best?"

Although it has been widely speculated that Wain's eventual stays in mental institutions were due to schizophrenia, recent theory poses that he more likely suffered from Asperger's Syndrome.

"Wallpaper Cat"


Untitled, 1933

8 comments:

Chris said...

Eeep. Is it wrong of me to find his kitties kind of creepy?

mrspao said...

Thanks for the info on Louis Wain. I've not come across him before.

Puss-in-Boots said...

What a sad story, but really cute cat drawings. Two of my neighbours have boys with Asperger's and I have a grandson with it also. It's a very prevalent syndrome with 1 out of 3 suspected of having Asperger's of varying degrees and it affects mainly boys.

Anyway, at least with Mr Wain, he draw beautiful cats by which he will be remember rather than for his disability.

Obsidian Kitten said...

I had no idea that Asperger's was so prevalent. I found Wain so interesting in that he drew mainly cats, to the eventual exclusion of nearly everything else--possibly a symptom of Aspergers? Also he was apparently very articulate but with an unusual use of language that others found difficult to follow--again, possibly due to Aspergers.

I read a book last year about "Neurodiversity" where the author suggested that what we consider to be mental disorders now are actually "neuroatypical behaviors" and may even be a natural part of the evolutionary process. Definitely food for thought. Post about that book, Susanne Antonetta's "A Mind Apart: Travels in Neurodiverse World," is here:
http://obsidiankitten.blogspot.com/2008/02/i-knit-therefore-i-am.html

Obsidian Kitten said...

Oh...and some of them definitely seem to be precursors of the big-eyed kitty-on-black-velvet paintings...

steven uhles said...

The precursor to the Margaret Keane cats. We used to have a Keane print at the Uhles house - "Waif and Kitten" or some such thing - and late at night that thing would scare the bejeesus out of me.

Obsidian Kitten said...

Yep. The eyes followed you wherever you went in the room, right?

A common expression in our house is "Don't make velvet painting eyes at me."

As in, "You're not getting what you want, even if you make velvet painting eyes at me. I'm not giving in, no matter how cute and pathetic you look."

Anonymous said...

it very nice and funny