It’s kind of funny. I’d been meaning to do a post about artist Louis Wain for some time, since I’d first discovered his drawings of big-eyed anthropomorphic cats. What’s funny is that two of my very first Cat Tat Tuesdays featured tattoos of Wain’s art, and I had no idea until recently when I happened upon them while perusing his artwork.
Here is the original illustration from which the Victorian umbrella cat tattoo that I love so much was taken:
There is something about this that I can’t help but love. I’ve been planning on getting some cats tattooed on me, and this is definitely one of the pieces that’s a contender. I’d love to take this and change it up a bit, to make the cats resemble my own.
But enough about me, let’s learn a little bit about Louis Wain.
Victorian artist Louis Wain began drawing cats in an effort to amuse his wife Emily, who was dying from cancer. His initial drawings were of their cat, Peter, who was a comfort to Emily during her illness. Wain eventually began to draw other cats who walked upright, wore clothing, and partook in human activities such as smoking, playing sports, and having tea parties.
Wain’s cats grew to be extremely popular in Victorian England, where anthropomorphic animals were all the rage. He was, perhaps, one of the very first cat guys ever. Almost all of his drawings were of cats, and he was involved in many cat organizations, including the National Cat Club where he even served as President and Chairman. In fact, according to several sources, Wain played a very large role in popularizing cats as pets, when before they were primarily kept as rodent control.
As Wain’s popularity later began to decline, so did his mental health and he was committed to a mental hospital. Many psychologists claim that his schizophrenia can be seen in his works, some of which are very colorful with psychedelic patterns, and apparently they are used as examples in many textbooks to show the progression of schizophrenia:
However, others argue that his schizophrenia had no effect on his works, as the paintings above were undated and were doubtfully created in the chronological order presented. Many of his later works actually use the same style seen in his earlier works, which portrayed cats that were much more realistic.
Regardless of whether or not any of this is true, Wain’s work definitely holds a special place not only in the art world, but in the history of cats and their relationships with humans as well. In the words of H.G. Wells, “[Wain] has made the cat his own. He invented a cat style, a cat society, a whole cat world.”
To wrap up this post, here is some more of Wain’s work: