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Louis Wain:

the man who drew cats

Louis Wain - the man who drew cats (1991 version)

Rodney Dale

 

'He invented a cat style, a cat society, a whole cat world. English cats that do not look like Louis Wain cats are ashamed of themselves.' H. G. Wells

At the end of the last century, Louis Wain became a household name as an illustrator of cats, particularly of humanized cats, whom he depicted in all sorts of activities from skating and playing cricket to driving motor cars and attending dances. His popularity was such that it was said 'Christmas without one of Louis's clever-catty pictures would be like Christmas pudding without currants.'

But Louis Wain was not just the 'Hogarth of Cat Life', as he was described by the editor of Punch. He was also Louis Wain the cat expert and President of the National Cat Club, whose many strange, quasi-scientific ideas were an early indication of the mental instability which was to engulf him in later life.

In Louis Wain: the Man who drew Cats, author Rodney Dale traces the development of Wain's career from his early realistic cat illustrations to his outstandingly popular humanized cats and the highly patterned drawings that he produced towards the end of his life. Interwoven with this is the fascinating and often tragic story of Wain's private life: his short-lived marriage; his frequent poverty, and the mental illness that gradually overcame him. Extensively illustrated with a representative selection of his work, the biography also includes extracts from Wain's own writings, all of which add up to make this a most satisfying biography of an unusual man.