Louis Wain (5 August 1860 – 4 July 1939) was an English artist known for his drawings, which consistently featured anthropomorphised large-eyed cats and kittens. In his hey day he was amazingly popular and earned lots of money. There were Louis Wain books, calendars, tablecloths, toys, chair covers and so on. Suddenly though he dropped out of public life and wasn't heard of again until after his death.
Following his passing friends started wonder if Wain had been accursed by the drawings he had made of cats. Stories circulated about how the ancient Egyptians revered cats as supernatural beings, It was suggested that the cats had the power to send Louis Wain to a living death.
One of his old friends said, "When Louis first drew a cat in ridicule it was the beginning if the end."
Wain first began drawing cats following the sad loss of his young bride. He was soon drawing dozens of cats every week - cats at tea parties, cats playing cricket, cats reading books. His cats became an amusing commentary on the human race.
Gradually though his output exceeded his inspiration, it was no longer sufficient to make his cats merely amusing. The creatures of his drawings became more and more ridiculous and comic.
It was then that the cats seemed to take their revenge.
A week before Wain was due to form a new oil company, which would have revolutionised the industry, the British government issued a decree forbidding the formation of such companies. Wain had sunk his fortune in the the preliminary expenses - and was ruined and penniless.
Soon after a shipload of model cats he had made in America was lost at sea. Huge sales had been assured for the cargo - it appeared as if the cats themselves had ordained that the money should never be made.
The next blow came when his sister, who ran Waine's home suddenly died.
With less and less demand for his work, Wain often went hungry, though he still created an appearance of affluence.
Out of the blue the tide turned in his favour - and once more, so his superstitious friends said, the cats had their revenge. A film company came to an agreement for film cartoons featuring his cats. Wain got on a bus to go to their offices to sign the contract - but there was a crash.
Wain was catapulted from the bus top into the street below. Two dray horses reared in sudden fright and stamped on him.
For more than a week Wain lay unconscious. When he came round, he moaned, "The cat! The cat!"
Soon after this he had to go to a mental hospital.
The cats had robbed him of his wealth, his health and his reason.
When he died, cats were in his last delirium. Then a warehouse containing the greater part of his original sketches was bombed.
It's said that the ancient Egyptians believed that to mock a cat meant death.
Footnote: Wain was said to be in the mental hospital with schizophrenia. According to Wikipedia this may have been precipitated by toxoplasma gondii, a parasite which is excreted by cats in their faeces. So the cats got to him one way or another!
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Oh goodness! I always admired his work, but had never heard the entire story of all of his terrible bad luck! Poor Mr. Wain! Fabulous post!ReplyDelete
Wow, I've never heard of him. This story is fascinating!ReplyDelete