Monday, 2 January 2017

Louis Wain – part 1


Louis William Wain (1860 – 1939) was an English artist best known for his illustrations of anthropomorphised large-eyed cats and kittens.
In 1886, Wain's first drawing of anthropomorphised cats was published in the Christmas issue of the Illustrated London News, titled "A Kittens' Christmas Party". The illustration depicted 150 cats that remain on all fours, unclothed, and without the variety of human-like expression that would characterise Wain's later work. Under the pseudonym of George Henri Thompson, he illustrated numerous books for children by Clifton Bingham published by Ernest Nister.

1886 A Kittens' Christmas Party
Illustrated London News

In subsequent years, Wain's cats began to walk upright, smile broadly and use other exaggerated facial expressions, and would wear sophisticated, contemporary clothing. Wain's illustrations showed cats playing musical instruments, serving tea, playing cards, fishing, smoking, and enjoying a night at the opera. Such anthropomorphic portrayals of animals were very popular in Victorian England and were often found in prints, on greeting cards and in satirical illustrations.

Wain was a prolific artist over the next thirty years, sometimes producing as many as several hundred drawings a year. He illustrated about one hundred children's books, and his work appeared in papers, journals, and magazines, including the Louis Wain Annual, which ran from 1901 to 1915. His work was also regularly reproduced on picture postcards, and these are highly sought after by collectors today. In 1898 and 1911 he was chairman of the National Cat Club.

1901 Louis Wain's Annual ( No. 1 of 15 )
published by Anthony Treherne & Co. Ltd.

Despite his popularity, Wain suffered financial difficulty throughout his life. He remained responsible for supporting his mother and sisters, and had little business sense. Wain was modest, naive and easily exploited, ill-equipped for bargaining in the world of publishing. He often sold his drawings outright, retaining no rights over their reproduction. He was easily misled, and occasionally found himself duped by the promise of a new invention or other money-making scheme.

He travelled to New York in 1907, where he drew some comic strips such as Cats About Town and Grimalkin, for Hearst newspapers. His work was widely admired, although his critical attitude towards the city made him the subject of sniping in the press. He returned home with even less money than before, due to imprudent investment in a new type of oil lamp.

When his sisters could no longer cope with his erratic and occasionally violent behaviour, he was finally committed to a pauper ward of Springfield Mental Hospital in Tooting, London, in 1924. A year later, he was discovered there and his circumstances were widely publicised, leading to appeals from such figures as H.G. Wells and the personal intervention of the Prime Minister. Wain was transferred to the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Southwark, and again in 1930 to Napsbury Hospital near St Albans in Hertfordshire, north of London. This hospital was relatively pleasant, with a garden and colony of cats, and he spent his final 15 years there in peace. While he became increasingly deluded, his erratic mood swings subsided, and he continued drawing for pleasure. His work from this period is marked by bright colours, flowers, and intricate and abstract patterns, though his primary subject remained the same.


This is part 1 of 10 – part series on the works of Louis Wain:

1886 Madame Tabby's Establishment
published by MacMillan and Co., London and New York

1886 Madame Tabby's Establishment 
published by MacMillan and Co., London and New York

1886 Madame Tabby's Establishment 
published by MacMillan and Co., London and New York

1886 Madame Tabby's Establishment 
published by MacMillan and Co., London and New York

1886 Madame Tabby's Establishment 
published by MacMillan and Co., London and New York

1886 Madame Tabby's Establishment 
published by MacMillan and Co., London and New York

1886 Madame Tabby's Establishment 
published by MacMillan and Co., London and New York

1888 Our Farm
published by J. Clarke and Co., London

1888 Our Farm 
published by J. Clarke and Co., London

1888 Our Farm 
published by J. Clarke and Co., London

1888 Our Farm 
published by J. Clarke and Co., London

1888 Our Farm 
published by J. Clarke and Co., London

1888 Our Farm 
published by J. Clarke and Co., London

1888 Our Farm 
published by J. Clarke and Co., London

1890 Dreams by French Firesides
published by Adam and Charles Black, Edinburgh

1890 Dreams by French Firesides 
published by Adam and Charles Black, Edinburgh

1890 Dreams by French Firesides 
published by Adam and Charles Black, Edinburgh

1890 Happy Hours with Louis Wain
published by Adam and Charles Black, Edinburgh

1890s Fairy Tales
published by Raphael Tuck and Sons. Co. Ltd

1890s Fairy Tales
published by Raphael Tuck and Sons. Co. Ltd

1890s Fairy Tales
published by Raphael Tuck and Sons. Co. Ltd

1890s Fairy Tales
published by Raphael Tuck and Sons. Co. Ltd

1891 Peter, Cat o' One Tail

1893 Old Rabbit, The Voodoo and Other Sorcerers
published by T. Fisher Unwin, London

1893 Old Rabbit, The Voodoo and Other Sorcerers 
published by T. Fisher Unwin, London

1893 Old Rabbit, The Voodoo and Other Sorcerers 
published by T. Fisher Unwin, London

1893 Old Rabbit, The Voodoo and Other Sorcerers 
published by T. Fisher Unwin, London

1896 Miss Lovemouse’s Letters
published by Nelson and Son

1898 Jingles, Jokes, and Funny Folks
published by Ernest Nister

1898 Jingles, Jokes, and Funny Folks 
published by Ernest Nister

1898 Jingles, Jokes, and Funny Folks 
published by Ernest Nister

1898 Jingles, Jokes, and Funny Folks 
published by Ernest Nister

1898 Jingles, Jokes, and Funny Folks 
published by Ernest Nister

1898 The Monkey that Would Not Kill
published by Hodder and Stoughton, London

1898 The Monkey that Would Not Kill
published by Hodder and Stoughton, London
"Tricky Upset Everything"

1898 The Monkey that Would Not Kill
published by Hodder and Stoughton, London
"Next Morning Tricky was Still There"

1898 The Monkey that Would Not Kill
published by Hodder and Stoughton, London
"He Began with the Parrot"

1898 The Monkey that Would Not Kill
published by Hodder and Stoughton, London
"The Most Precious of All is Gum"

1899 Pussies and Puppies by Louis Wain
published by S.W. Partridge and Co., London

1899 Pussies and Puppies by Louis Wain 
published by S.W. Partridge and Co., London

1899 Pussies and Puppies by Louis Wain 
published by S.W. Partridge and Co., London

1899 Pussies and Puppies by Louis Wain 
published by S.W. Partridge and Co., London

1899 Pussies and Puppies by Louis Wain 
published by S.W. Partridge and Co., London

1900 The Dandy Lion
published by Ernest Nister and E. P. Dutton and Co., London

1900c Pussies at Work by Louis Wain 
published by Raphael Tuck and Sons. Co. Ltd

1900c Pussies at Work by Louis Wain  
published by Raphael Tuck and Sons. Co. Ltd

1900c Pussies at Work by Louis Wain 
published by Raphael Tuck and Sons. Co. Ltd

1901 Cats by Tabitha Grimalkin
published by Sands and Company

1901 Pa Cats, Ma Cats, and their Kittens 
published by Raphael Tuck and Sons. Co. Ltd

1901 Ping-Pong As seen by Louis Wain front cover
published by Raphael Tuck and Sons. Co. Ltd

1901 Ping-Pong As seen by Louis Wain
published by Raphael Tuck and Sons. Co. Ltd

1901 Ping-Pong As seen by Louis Wain
published by Raphael Tuck and Sons. Co. Ltd

1901 Ping-Pong As seen by Louis Wain
published by Raphael Tuck and Sons. Co. Ltd


1901 Rough Riders Calendar for 1901
published by Raphael Tuck and Sons. Co. Ltd

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