Louis Wain, the most famous cat illustrator at the turn of the century, was born in 1860 in England. During his lifetime, his cat illustrations earned him fame and popularity throughout Europe and the United States.

Throughout his life, even while staying at an mental institution, he created thousands of drawings and helped the world to see cats as human-like creatures. His works were used to entertain children (and adults) as well as to advertise various products w hen trade cards and promotions was an infant industry.

He became know as an eccentric and also as a force of social change during the Edwardian period when cats were considered merely as outdoor animals whose sole existence was to keep the rodent population under control. Through his drawings and animal interests, he helped people recognize the wonders of cats and promote interest in animal welfare.

His Life

Louis Wain was a shy child who was domineered by his widowed mother and five sisters who never married. He was their primary source of support throughout his life. In 1884, he married; however, the marriage only lasted three years. His wife died of can cer in 1887 when he was only 26 years old. During her illness, he used to sit with her and paint pictures of her kitten "Peter" . We believe that this is when his love affair with felines began.

His Work

Louis Wain helped illustrate over 200 books. However, he spent most his life in poverty due to his lack of business sense. In the 1920's, he was certified insane and moved to a pauper ward in a mental asylum. During his illness, he claimed the magical powers of healing of electricity was imprisoned within himself. You'll often find these electrical impluses displayed through his cat drawings.

H. G. Wells best portrays Louis Wain when he said in a 1925 broadcast, in an attempt to raise money for the impoverished artist, that three generations had been brought up on Louis Wain's cats and few nurseries were without his pictures. He 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.

He died in a mental institution in 1939, a month before his 79 birthday.

His Cats

Wain's cats do not follow the proper rules of anatomy, instead they become two legged creatures lounging and drinking tea, playing sports, attending the opera, etc. Their facial expressions are endearing and bring smiles to the faces of the staunchest dog lover. I nterest in his work continues today.

One of the reasons for this interest, is that people like to study his art form during the many phases of his mental illness. His work can be seen progressing from soft sweet faced felines, through periods where electrical impulses are generating throughout the animals and onto the paper, to totally psychedelic phases where it is hard to distinguish the animal.

His cats graced post cards, playing cards, tea packages and advertisements selling products such as DeBeukelaer cocoa, biscuits, and chocolates, including Jacksons\rquote Hats and Boots, Mazawattee Tea Co., Thom's Castile Soap, and Wildspur Lustre Yarns. The value of these items has continued to increase through the years.

As can be seen by the photos, his use of cats went a long way to advertising different types of products. Some cats are waltzing, others going about everyday chores in a human life, and others playing sports. Obviously, the wonders of his cats went a long way to making everyday pr oducts more worthwhile.

Louis Wain Books & Prints

For a list of books and prints on Louis Wain that are for sale, go to Louis Wain Collectibles

For more information on Louis Wain, see: Wikipedia Louis Wain Page