Louis Wain’s Crazy Cats

by Intern Jessica Butler

If there’s one thing I’m sure of at the BUST office, it’s that everyone here loves cats. We might have found our rival, though: a man by the name of Louis Wain. Wain, an extremely successful freelance illustrator throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, gained his reputation with hundreds of humorous cat illustrations. He was even the President of the National Cat Club, according to the Henry Boxer Gallery

Inspired by his cat, Peter, most of Wain’s work contains images of anthropomorphized cats doing normal, everyday activities that are only cute if a cat is doing them–like golfing, playing pool, reading books, and drinking tea, to name a few. Many of Wain’s furry friends are portrayed standing on their hind legs, donning contemporary human clothing and exaggerated facial expressions. 

But it wasn’t until around 1924, when he was committed to a mental hospital and certified as insane, that his illustrations got really nuts. Wain continued drawing and painting cats during his stay at various hospitals, creating pieces which are admittedly some of my favorite. Long before the 1960s and ‘70s, he painted work featuring kaleidoscopic and floral patterns, unrealistically bright colors, and geometric shapes. Wain was possibly suffering from schizophrenia at this point, and his illustrations became progressively more psychedelic and detailed as his condition worsened, but his feline fascination stayed strong. Louis Wain’s illustrations are inspiring and intriguing, wonderfully weird, and a tad creepy. They also kind of make me want to go high-five a cat. Looks like we’ve finally met our cat-loving match!

Image source: All images by Louis Wain, via lilitu.com

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