Louis Wain, Cats in Dogland

Louis Wain was an English artist best known for his drawings, which often featured anthropomorphised large-eyed cats and kittens. However the scope of work was far wider than this. He was a true artist but combined this with an approach to the rendering of his art in a unique and unprecedented style.

Wain was born on the 5th August 1860, so lived to the good age of 79, passing away on 4th July 1939. His father was a textile trader and embroiderer; his mother was French. He was the first of six children, and the only male child. None of his five sisters ever married.

Annuals By Lois Wain
A selection of Wains Annuals, issued from 1905 to 1914 © Louis Wain

Wain was born with a cleft lip and the doctor gave his parents the orders that he should not be sent to school or taught until he was ten years old. In his later years he may have suffered from schizophrenia (although this claim is widely disputed among many specialists if this is true or not), which, according to some psychiatrists, can be seen in his works.

Shortears Began And Sung A Solo. Then All The Cats Joined And Sung The Chorus To Madame’s Satisfaction (1886) © Louis Wain/Chris Beetles Gallery London

As a youth, he was often truant from school, and spent much of his childhood wandering around London. Following this period, Louis studied at the West London School of Art and eventually became a teacher there for a short period.

Two Jugs Of Milk

At the age of 20, Wain was left to support his mother and his five sisters after his father’s death.

The Naughty Puss, and of course ….
… The Good Puss

Wain soon resigned from his teaching position to become a freelance artist, and in this role he achieved substantial success. He specialized in drawing animals and country scenes, and worked for several journals including the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, where he stayed for four years. He also worked for the Illustrated London News from 1886.

I am very happy because everbody loves me

Through the 1880s, Wain’s work included detailed illustrations of English country houses and estates, along with livestock he was commissioned to draw at agricultural shows. His work at this time includes a wide variety of animals, and he maintained his ability to draw creatures of all kinds throughout his lifetime. At one point, he hoped to make a living by drawing dog portraits, but he didnt need to …

Dogs In Catland © Louis Wain

Wain became one of the most popular commercial illustrators in the history of England. His cats, dogs and other animals captured the imagination of the Edwardian era and his work helped to promote domestic cats to unprecedented heights. Before Wain, cats in England were often thought of with contempt, but his work humanised them and helped to show them as something to be liked, admired and even loved.

Peter the Cat, Emilys friend sat in thegarden
Peter the Cat, Emilys friend sat in the garden

His illustrations were so popular that throughout the beginning of the twentieth-century most homes had at least one of his famous cat annuals and many nurseries had Wain posters hanging on their walls. “He made the cat his own” H.G. Wells once remarked. “…he invented a cat style, a cat society, a whole cat world.”At the age of 23, Wain married his sisters’ governess, Emily Richardson, who was ten years his senior (which was considered quite scandalous at the time), and moved with her to Hampstead in north London. Emily soon began to suffer from breast cancer, and died three years into their marriage. Prior to Emily’s death, Wain discovered the subject that would define his career. During her illness, Emily was comforted by their pet cat Peter, a stray black and white kitten they had rescued after hearing him mewing in the rain one night.

Apple Tree Cats

Emily’s spirits were greatly lifted by Peter, and Louis began to draw extensive sketches of him, which Emily strongly encouraged him to have published. She died before this happened, but he continued to make cat sketches. He later wrote of Peter, “To him, properly, belongs the foundation of my career, the developments of my initial efforts, and the establishing of my work.” Peter can be recognized in many of Wain’s early published works.

See more of Wains Work here

If you wish to buy an original of Wains work then try the Chris Beetles Gallery

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Wain & other sources./p>

Other Illustrations by Wain using Pencil and Pen & Ink

The door of the Annual
A Cats Nightmare
A selection of Wains ‘Fractal Cat’ Illustrations
The Man Himself. Bringing Joy to so many, us included eh Osc.