Fond of Cats
“He appropriated cats. He invented a cat style, a cat society, an entire cat world. English cats that do not look and do not live like Wain’s cats should be ashamed of themselves.” The famous science fiction writer Herbert Wells wrote so about a no- less famous and no-less fantastic artist. His name was Louis Wain (Louis William Wain).
But we will start, perhaps, not with the artist himself, but with the news that has just stirred up the fans of a contemporary cinema superstar Benedict Cumberbatch. It became known that the widely adored Sherlock Holmes starts to work on the role of Louis Wain, and will also produce a biography film directed by Will Sharp. “I’m excited to play Louis Wain and produce such a special film because I’ve admired the artist’s work for several years thanks to the series “Flowers” by Will Sharp. From that moment on, I knew that Sharp would be able to perfectly tell the story of Louis Wain’s stamina, creativity and power of love in a film”, Cumberbatch told the reporters.
So what is Louis Wain famous for? The answer is simple: cats! This amazing and incredibly talented person painted these adorable animals all his life (until his very sad end, but we will tell about it a little later). “What's so special about it? - you ask, - thousands of artists adored cats and painted them!” That's true. But Louis Wain’s cats are special: they are anthropomorphic, that is, similar to humans. Their faces, oh, muzzles, have a human expression, they dress like people, they play cards and golf, fence, relax on the beach ... It all looks extremely cute.
Louis Wain was born on August 5, 1860 in London. He was the eldest child and also the only son of his parents, he had five younger sisters - and by the way, not one of them ever got married. Having lost his father being young, Louis became the sole breadwinner for the whole rather large family. He earned due to his talent: he painted village landscapes, domestic animals – that is the farm.
And then a cat appeared in his life. More precisely, a kitten, which the artist named Peter - in honor of Peter I. But even earlier Louis met Emily, the biggest and the only love of him (except for cats). It was a pure misalliance: Emily Richardson was almost 10 years older than Louis and also served as a governess for his sisters. But Wain loved her and married her. Unfortunately, the spouse soon became seriously ill – and in this very moment Peter appeared in the house, whom the artist took to entertain Emily and give her positive emotions in the days of her illness. Wain taught him various tricks, for example, to wear glasses and sit motionless in front of a book, as if reading. And of course, he drew the cat: “Actually, thanks to him I laid the foundations of my career, began to develop and strengthen my creativity.” Peter can be found on many Wain’s early works.
Cats became the main theme of Louis Wain’s works. A great many of them live in children's books: the artist illustrated more than a hundred books, and he is often called the greatest illustrator of the Victorian era.
If you look closely, it is impossible not to recognize: these cats are a bit strange. And not only because they remind people ...
Obviously, the fact is that Wain was not very healthy. In 1924, with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, he was placed in a Springfield psychiatric hospital. The conditions there were terrible, and the artist was popular, so the English people did not remain indifferent to his fate. Journalists found Wain and made a fuss in the press, after which famous people intervened - Herbert Wells, who was already mentioned there, and even the prime minister, and the artist was transferred to the famous Betlem clinic, and then to an even more comfortable institution in Hertfordshire with a beautiful garden. There he lived the remaining years until his death in 1939.
The disease progressed, but Wain continued to draw cats. However, they were becoming even stranger, more abstract. Not cats, but fractals...
Louis Wain’s works are incredibly popular today; collectors are willing to pay big money for them. But the artist did not pay much attention to the copyright on his own pictures, so there are a lot of fakes around the world today