Daily Catblogging

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Cat Art of Louis Wain

One of my favorite bands from the "New Wave" era was a little group from Scotland called Orange Juice. They've just released a compilation of their early singles and other work originally recorded for a tiny Scottish company called Postcard Records:



The cat above was the image Postcard Records used on their label. Turns out it was based on a painting by a guy named Louis Wain, whose cat pictures were very popular in the late 19th and early 20th century:



Here's some info on Wain from a website called Catland:

Louis Wain (1860-1939) was an English artist who was most famous for his drawings of cats. Although he was a household name at the turn of the century, his reputation subsequently diminished after his death until the late sixties when Rodney Dale's Louis Wain: The Man who Drew Cats was published. Since then, there has been some interest in Wain's art but not nearly to the extent that it deserves.


According to Dale, this was the information that was easily available on Wain when he started the research for his book:

He was born in 1860 and started to draw cats in his early twenties. By the turn of the century, his was a household name, for he had created the Louis Wain Cat, a special type of mischievous feline which found universal acclaim. But he was obsessed with drawing cats, and when the demand for them eventually diminished, he was not able to come to terms with the situation. He had heavy family commitments, but no one would buy his work—his only means of making a living. His mind failed and he was admitted in poverty to a mental hospital. After a time, he was "discovered" there, and a number of influential people set up a fund to enable him to spend the rest of his days in comfort. He died in 1939.

Of course, the above does not do justice to the tragic yet fascinating life of Louis Wain which was the reason that Dale wrote his book. It is essential reading for all Wainophiles.

Since Wain's death, the two main groups interested in his works are cat lovers and those interested in the art of schizophrenics. Wain is especially fascinating to those who study the art of the mentally ill because he had one main subject, cats, and there are examples of his art from both before and during his illness...

I hadn't heard of Wain before, but I like his stuff!

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