Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wain Cats

Weird and compelling short article in Scientific American about artist and psychiatric patient Louis Wain, who lived and painted in England between 1860 and 1939.

Wain was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1924. Though the diagnosis is still debated, what's fascinating is that Wain retained his interest in cats as his subject of choice, and his skill as a draftsman remained obvious. As his condition worsened his pictures of cats became more abstract until, towards the end of his life, they were barely recognisable as cats at all, instead becoming intricately detailed, fractal shapes full of bright colours. The foreknowledge that they are images of kitties allows the viewer to pick up on certain shapes – the pointy ears and some features – but without it, you would be hard-pressed to realise these are cats.

The story ends somewhat happily with Wain in a London hospital surrounded by a colony of cats. Check out his early cute and relatively realistic work here and his spectacular and terrifying later work here.

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