WAIN, Louis

(1860 - 1939)
"Cats that do not look like Louis Wain cats are ashamed of themselves.”

Born in Clerkenwell, London, the eldest of six children, Louis was a sickly child, being both physically weak and also tormented by bad dreams. Wain’s propensity to fantasise led him to be seen as an outsider by his peers.

In 1877 Wain found his niche when he joined the London School of Art, first as a student and later as a teacher. Against his family’s wishes Wain married his sister's governess, Emily, who was ten years his senior, but shortly after the marriage Emily was found to be suffering from breast cancer. Louis purchased a kitten, Peter, to keep her company during her illness and the artist would sit for hours with his wife constantly drawing the kitten and all its antics. Emily encouraged Wain to show the drawings to his publisher and thus began the career of the man who drew cats.

Over time Wain’s cats metamorphosed into humanised creatures, taking part in sporting events, attending school and frequenting social events. Wain’s association with publishing house Raphael Tuck, from 1902, provided a wonderful array of cat books with comic drawings and some high quality chromolithographic printing. Wain’s work was popular and in huge demand, but the artist was not financially shrewd, making poor investments and signing unadvantageous contracts. He struggled to provide for his family and his financial insecurity caused him great anxiety.

In 1917 he became prone to delusions and at the age of 63 Wain was diagnosed with schizophrenia and admitted to the pauper’s ward of Surrey County Mental Asylum. He might have ended his days there were it not for one hospital guardian, Dan Rider, a bookseller who upon discovering that Louis Wain had been admitted persuaded G.K. Chesteron’s sister-in-law to set up an appeal raising funds to move Wain to a private room in the Royal Bethlem Hospital (known as Bedlam). Wain continued to draw cats and other animals during the later part of his life, although his cats took on something of a psychedelic air. Wain died at the age of 78. 

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 Louis WAIN

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Tinker, Tailor

WAIN, Louis