Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Louis Wain interview and gallery

How could I forget my favorite insane painter and postcard artist, Louis Wain, whose works are often used to illustrate the onset of schizophrenia.

At the website linked above there is even an interview with him from 1896 as well as a wonderful gallery of his work.


Namowal said...

I have a book about Wain called "The man who painted cats". According to the book, he had some background or experience (I forget the details) with textile patterns so sometimes he'd combine the two.
He also designed some unusual ceramic figures. They're pictured in the book, but I could only find one pic online:

Katy said...

Thanks for the Wain images. Pretty good summary at the wikipedia link, too. He ended up at an asylum aptly named Napsbury. Hope I can take a rest cure there (if it still has a garden and a colony of cats) when I go off the rails.

sally g said...

I became so impressed with the art of insane people after working as a graphic designer for 10 years that I almost got a second degree in art therapy, but then I decided I didn't really want to go back to school but would rather make crazy artwork myself than analyze it.

Sally said...

All your comments are really interesting to me. namowal, the textile pattern background is great to learns. I have the book "Catland." I keep coming upon new images of his on the internet that amaze me. We have a little ceramic pig we got in England 20 + years ago, not with the fancy signature, just a stamped name on it, but with the same kind of wild face and spirals.

The wikipedia piece was quite good, katy.

sally g, were the insane people your coworkers?

Jane said...

Hi, I've been a *huge* Louis Wain fan for over 12 years now, and it's great to see a more active interest in his work and life in recent years. When I first discoverd Louis Wain, and would mention him to people, I always got the same reaction - 'who'? No one knew who I was talking about. So it's really cool to see he is gaining back a following of sorts in recent times.
As far as his background with textiles, his mother worked with textiles, mostly in the eastern indian tradition, and it is said that Louis saw cats in the patterns of these eastern indian textiles, even long before he became mentally ill. While I'm sure his illness played a part in the way his cat paintings changed over the years, I do feel his exposure to these textiles played a part in it as well. Mostly what are referred to as his 'wallpaper cats'.
The only thing that saddens me somewhat about him now, is that in his time, he was known as the King of the Cat Artists, but now he's more known for his 'crazy cat paintings' as some people put it. It makes me sad because there seems to be too much focus on his illness, when you consider all that he did so for cats in his time. And he did a lot! Not only was Louis very popular with his art, but he was involved in many cat related charity groups, even the National Anti-vivisection league - talk about being ahead of his time! Louis also served as President for years for the National Cat Club, and he is the one who changed the publics perception of cats as more than mere vermon killers, but rather as household pets that deserve love and respect. So while his later works are indeed quite fascinating, let's not forget all he did for cats in his time that still resonate even in today's society.
If anyone is interested, there is a link to my 'Louis Wain Group' over at Wiki. Any fans of his are most welcome to join. I also wrote his bio over at - you can leave virtual flowers and/or notes for him there.
- Jane

Sally said...

Thanks Jane. He was an incredibly prolific artist with such a strange life story. I think in the future art history will re-evaluate him. His paintings are so beautiful and the humor in the postcards is charming and funny.

Jane said...

Hi Sally - I too think that people in the art field will re-evalaute Louis Wain. I am noticing that he is gaining more popularity these days, which is great, I'm happy to see people are appreciating his work and all he did for cats too. I remember when I first saw his cat art, and I fell in love wih it instantly because it is so charming, just as you said! His work makes me smile so much. I think it's wonderful that after all these years since Louis was around, that his art still has that effect on people! He's one of those people I would have loved to have met. Louis was not only talented, but seemed like such an interesting and compassionate person. I'm glad his art lives on!

Cheers from Catland ;)
- Jane

Fuzzer96 said...

Now I'm not even sure how I encountered this blog, but am very much interested in Louis Wain. I own the website My goal is to see that Wain is known as the great artist he was and not as the certified insane person as he is often portrayed.
I am visiting England soon to continue my search for Wainiana. I visited Royal Bethlem Hospital when Patricia Allderidge was still curator.
This year I designed a desk calendar with a Wain postcard on each page. It turned out to be much more popular than I ever imagined. I feel that items like this give those with few funds to see his art -- and they appeal to the Wain fans as well. Our greeting cards are also popular for the same reasons.
This time in England I want to visit the primary neighborhoods where Wain spent his life and take some pictures or a video. If anyone can help me in my search, I would very much appreciate it!
Jane, thanks for the info on virtual graves at wiki -- sounds like a good start!
When I have time, I leave comments on those Google videos, which show Wain's decline into schizophrenia -- wish those producers would do more reading before publishing their rubbish all over the Internet.
Happy New year!

Sally said...

fuzzer96, You have some lovely Louis Wain images on your website, but I question why you have copyright notices stamped on all over them?

Fuzzer96 said...

Hi everyone,
When I started my site in 1999, I didn't have any copyright notices on anything except greeting cards, which I had personally designed. The copyright is on the card design and not Wain's art.
About 3 years or so, I was looking through Google images and noticed that images from original artwork that I personally own were being shown as being in the public domain and anyone would be free to use them. I was quite surprised that my own pictures would be in the public domain and, indeed, other sites do use them.
In actuality the person who created the artwork should have the copyright on them for well over 100 years now, as the copyright laws were extended a few years back.
I have written to the major holders of Wain artwork, such as the Royal Bethlem Hospital and the V & A Museum to get a list of the art that they do own and claim the copyrights.
Since we probably all know that Wain was a poor businessman, he never copyrighted or patented his work except for the ceramics. Thus Tuck and other companies in Wain's day never paid him any royalties; yet they continued to use and reuse his pictures and never paid him royalties. I think that is very unfair, and I would be happy to pay anyone who had a legitimate claim to Wain's art.
I was very nervous at first using someone else's artwork -- my solution currently is to always give credit to the publishing company who first used them.
The most disheartening thing to me, though, is to see that persons and companies are distorting his artwork. I think that is a really unfair to depict Wain art in such a way.
FYI, to use a picture that Royal Bethlem owns, you must pay them a fee to do so. I am interested in using some Wain art for Tshirts and cards, and to do so, I would pay the Hospital a 400 pound fee for 3 years and use it in such a way that thought appropriate. I am all for that. Louis Wain art should be maintained in the way in which it was originally created. I would be happy to answer any further questions on copyrights as I consulted two copyright attorneys before I began this undertaking. Does anyone agree or disagree with my position? So far, no one has come forward to question my position.
Loved the graveyard site (not the subject matter), but didn't have time to join. I plan to do so, though, and remember him on some of the important days of his life.

Fuzzer96 said...

Did you know that you're blog is listed on page 2 for Google under Louis Wain Postcards? That's great!

Sally said...

That's amazing about google. And one of the reasons I try to remember not to mention names if I'm saying something I wouldn't want the person to know about.

Fuzzer96 said...

For a while, I was beginning to think Wain was losing some of his popularity. Was I ever wrong! I cruise the internet sites daily looking at his pictures that I love. More and more, I am outbid on eBay. The current collectors have a ton of money and obviously great admiration for Wain's art. A Wain Tuck calendar that was outstanding just sold for $694 or so and a couple of the cubist ceramics are running into the thousands. I only wish Wain could know his popularity today. He was such a quiet, unassuming man.

Sally said...

The postcards haven't gone up much in value on ebay, but then postcards in general are kind of flat in value lately.

Anonymous said...

I purchased an old oil painting years ago of "cats on a see-saw." Since that time I discovered Louis Wain and saw a print of this oil painting. I would like to find out where the original piece of his work is (unlikely that mine is an origianl one since it is not signed, but a really good copy)and wonder how to go about finding that out. Any ideas? mary w.

Sally said...

Anonymous, if you go the Christie's auction site, they will provide estimates for free if you follow their procedure. That's where I'd start.

Jimf said...

Dear Anonymous
We are fortunate enough to own the original of this painting which is called "Cats on a Seesaw". The original is oil on canvas and was painted in 1890 which we think makes it one of his earliest oils. It also seems to be one of his largest at 46" x 19".
I'm pleased to say that the painting is still in excellent condition having been in our family since it was painted and given to my great grandfather who was a friend of Wain's on the cat and dog show circuit.

Sally said...

That's amazing,JimF. Lucky you and great that your family has kept it all these years!