Louis Wain And Peter The Cat

Louis Wain
One of Wain’s earlier works

Louis Wain (1860-1939) was a British artist made famous by his caricatures of cats doing everything from playing golf to having tea.  He created a feline version (inspired by his cat Peter) of the famous dogs playing poker franchise.

Louis Wain
Another work during Wain’s illness

Wain’s began his artistic career when he was a teenager.  In his early twenties he worked as a freelancer and had modest success.  His wife Emily developed cancer and after a long illness succumbed to the disease.  During her illness, Emily derived pleasure from interacting with their black and white cat, Peter.  Because of the strong bond between Emily and Peter, after Emily’s death Wain began interacting more with the cat.

He taught Peter tricks like wearing eye glasses, and began drawing pictures of the cat in a variety of situations.  These pictures of Peter elevated Wain’s career and the artist wrote “to him properly belongs the foundation of my career, the developments of my initial efforts and establishing of my work.”

For many years, Peter was a recurring image in Wain’s work.  In 1886, Wain drew a widely acclaimed piece called A Kitten’s Christmas Party for the Illustrated London News.  After this, his drawings of cats walking upright, dressed in various clothing appeared everywhere.  His pictures were on greeting cards, in children’s books and in a magazine called the Louis Wain Annual, which was devoted entirely to his work.

Later in life, Wain developed schizophrenia and was confined to a mental hospital for the last twenty years of his life.  He continued painting

until his death, but as his disease progressed, his works became more bizarre.  The images of clothes wearing cats disappeared and were replaced with more abstract renderings of cats done in bright colors, often with surprised, sometimes terrified expressions on their faces.

Louis Wain
A final work

Sadly, Louis Wain’s works became a depiction of his descent into madness.  In his final works, the cat images were replaced with kaleidoscope patterns comprised of small geometric shapes.  Occasionally, though, even toward the end of his life Wain created portraits of his inspiration, Peter the Cat.

Image Source: artmagick.com

Article Source:  100 Cats Who Changed Civilization by Sam Stall

Written by Karen


Karen is Publisher of Fully Feline. She also owns a pet care business in Overland Park, KS called Joy of Living.