Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cat fervour

Louis Wain flips the crazy cat lady stereotype on its head with his long and slow demise into mental illness, which can be traced through his illustrations of his favourite subjects, cats.

Initially the cats were naturalistic, then they developed clothing, comical features and stood upright like people. Soon they were wearing hats, attending tea parties and became popular in children’s books.

In later years Wains mind took a long and winding trip into a no mans land of unquestionable mental instability. The cats began to look a little they had been taking acid, drawn in a psychedelic fervour of colour and fantasy.

The cruelest irony is that his apparent schizophrenia was precipitated by toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection contracted from cats. A series of five of his paintings is now a famous example of a deteriorating mental state in psychology books.

H.G Wells put it nicely when he said "He has made the cat his own. He invented a cat style, a cat society, a whole cat world. English cats that do not look and live like Louis Wain cats are ashamed of themselves."

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