Still watching this youtube channel about what I can only describe as "Dark Classical art" and this one absolutely floored me because I was unaware of it and I want to share it because it changes my perspective on this artist completely.
You might be aware of Louis Wain. If not by name then by his art. He's the artist behind that series of cat drawings that slowly became more and more abstract and bizarre.
This series of paintings of cats are often labelled as a visual representation of Wain's deteriorating mental illness and schizophrenia. Even more so often labelled as "a tragic display of a painter's failing battle with schizophrenia."
The paintings look like this and were painted around the very early 1900s.
Ok got all that?
So here's the thing.
Although Wain did suffer from a mental illness that was strong enough for him to be institutionalized, his mental illness was never diagnosed with clear certainty. Although "Schizophrenia" is so heavily applied to him based purely on how his series of paintings LOOK, despite actual specialists widely disputing this. On top of this, although he did paint the kaleidoscope cat portraits during this time, it was not the only things he painted, and he was quite capable of painting "normal" pictures of cats.
The Kaleidoscope Cat portraits are more images of him experimenting with colour and shapes, something the Smithsonian themselves state on their website.
Wain had actually made his entire living painting whimsical images of cats, often for product adverts, before he was incarcerated and was actually a very beloved artist at the time. When his friends learned of his incarceration, they started a collection of donation money to help transfer Wain to the Bethlam Royal Hospital instead, one of the best mental health facilities of the time. Even the Prime Minster of the time donated, and they raised a large amount of money across England to help him.
4 years later, Wain drew this as his final image which he released publicly
I knew all about "the Schizophrenic cat Guy" but he had always been presented to me as some tragic case of an artist going mad and his skills and work unraveling as he went insane.
Which is why I wanted to share this information which was new to me. And because I think it's important.
Illustration from the book :
"Dreamland Frolics" written and illustrated by Doreen Baxter, 1951
neck kiss 🩸
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