Who are Louis Wain’s cats?
Today we are talking about the London-based illustrator Louis Wain interesting for several reasons. A movie about his life with Benedict Cumberbatch is soon to be released.
He was one of the first to draw anthropomorphized animals, that is, dressed and with human behaviors and expressions. Louis Wain is also remembered for being a victim of some mental illness (some say schizophrenia, but he is not sure) and according to some experts his mental deterioration is visible in his drawings.
Louis Wain’s cats were analyzed by different psychiatrists who often came to different conclusions. Louis Wain was born in Clerkenwell in 1860, his father traded in textiles and his mother, who was French, stayed at home. Louis had 5 sisters and none of these 5 ever married, the only one of the five who did not live all her life at home with her mother was the youngest who ended up in an asylum.
Louis himself had problems he was in fact born with a cleft lip which was then considered a sign of mental weakness and for that reason was not sent to school for years.In any case he managed to qualify to teach and at 20, following the death of his father, found himself having to support his mother and five sisters.
He wasn’t a teacher for long and became a freelance illustrator specialising in countryside scenes with animals. A few years later Louis Wain married the sisters’ governess who was 10 years his senior and they moved in together.
Unfortunately, after a few years his wife fell ill with breast cancer and died shortly after. During the months of his illness, a stray kitten named Peter kept his wife company and Louis Wain began to draw it, finding his inspiration in the cat. His first cat was published in 1886 and his illustrations in the next 30 years became very popular, unfortunately Wain did not keep the rights and always had financial problems.
In 1924 as his mental illness worsened, his sisters sent him to an asylum where he continued to draw cats and stayed there until his death in 1939. Louis Wain’s cats and books are now in the public domain (copyright generally expires 70 years after the author’s death).