Louis Wain and the cats: art seen through schizophrenia

the writer HG Wells he once said that cats in England don’t look like cats painted by Louis wainThey are ashamed of themselves.

No wonder: Louis Wain was one of the most prestigious artists of the Victorian era, and everyone knew and loved his funny depictions of cats acting and expressing themselves as human beings.

    Louis Wain: A Journey Into The Work Of An Artist Obsessed With Cats

    However, Wain didn’t go down in history just to be a good painter. It is also one of the classic examples used to show how schizophrenia changes people, a mental illness that could have been reflected in the development of his later paintings.

    His fondness for cats

    Louis Wain enjoys drawing animals from a young age. He never missed an opportunity to create depictions of the living things he saw and the bucolic scenes in which they were involved. However, it was when his wife fell ill with cancer that he began to draw what would characterize his work. Cats.

    Specifically, cats adopt attitudes and activities typical of humans. At first, yes, shyly: the cats I painted at this point have the anatomical features of normal and ordinary cats, but try to adapt their bodies to human tasks, like reading the newspaper or smoking. Wain drew these cats to encourage his wife in the later years of her life, so she resorted to portraying her cat Peter in somewhat ridiculous situations.

    Louis wain he started drawing and painting clearly anthropomorphic cats shortly after his 30th birthday. In these very comically-sounding images, the cats were a means by which their creator caricatured the English society of the time: cats waving, smoking, having parties with drinks, playing golf … in fact, Wain had used to go to crowded places. places, such as plazas or restaurants, and depict people he saw as felines acting like the people he saw.

    Almost everything Louis Wain drew was so funny that the painter hardly had to change his style when it came to illustrating certain children’s books, also using the figure of anthropomorphic animals.

    The stage of decomposition

    Louis Wain was famous and admired throughout England, however he was by no means rich. In fact, he made little profit from his own work, as he sometimes worked practically for free and also spent part of the money to support his family. He soon began to have so many financial problems that he had to emigrate to the United States, from where he became even poorer again.

    Things got worse when Wain started showing symptoms of mental illness. While the development of psychiatry in the early twentieth century did not allow us to know much about the painter’s mental illness, today Louis Wain is believed to have developed schizophreniaAlthough some researchers point out that it is more likely to meet diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorders.

    His internment in phrenopathy

    Wain he was first admitted to a mental institution in the mid-1920s, When his behavior had become so erratic and sometimes aggressive that he even found it difficult to relate to those around him. However, this detention center was in such a bad state that several prominent figures including HG Wells and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom himself stepped in to make it better.

    In this way, Louis Wain arrived at the Bethlem Royal Hospital, a place that had a garden and a cheerful colony of cats. He would spend the last 15 years of his life there.

    Journey to the abstract

    Louis Wain of the Royal Bethlem Hospital was, of course, different from the affable painter who loved to mingle with people and who all the newspapers across the country had pampered. But not only had he changed: he too, apparently his job.

    The dating of his paintings which took place years after his death shows a clear pattern in his paintings, which they range from figurative art in which animals appear acting like people to very abstract combinations of lines and colors and that they hardly recall anything that exists in our plane of reality. In these paintings appear kaleidoscopic shapes, a wide variety of colors and fractal or symmetrical patterns. They look like paintings from another planet, or based on mythological folklore from some Asian cultures.

    A pictorial work that teaches us the reality of people suffering from schizophrenia

    This is why Louis Wain’s work is often used as an example of how the way we perceive reality changes in some people with schizophrenia.

    However, and while it is true that these abstract paintings correspond exclusively to the time when schizophrenia greatly limited Wain’s abilities, we can also take this story as an example of self-improvement. Art can also be a testament to the creative will of people, and if the paintings of the English painter could vary incredibly to appeal to logics and rules of representation that only he understood, they are still proof of a genius. lively artistry which he continued to develop – even under the most difficult conditions.

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