From art to schizophrenia… What is the secret of the artist “Louis Wayne”‘s fondness for cats?!

“(Rum Taj Taj) is an eccentric cat

If you open the door for him and let him in

He wants to get out

He is always on the wrong side of any door

And when he enters the house,

To ask to come out again

He likes to lie in the desk drawer

But it makes noise and causes problems

If he can’t get out of it.”

T.S. Elliot, Diwan of Cats (1)

Long time or short, there is no difference anymore, hordes of cats have invaded all places and times, imposing an overwhelming presence for them in art and its manifestations. Mooney the kitten lazily rides in a sunny garden by Egyptian writer Mohamed Afifi in his wonderful book Hymns in the Shadow of Tamara. The black-furred cat follows the pages of the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, and other kittens follow the example of the black cat to follow Orhan Pamuk on the streets of Istanbul, passing with him his memories. Poet and playwright T.S. Eliot refutes these creatures with playful flavour, in his stunning work, The Divan of Cats. It is fondly drawn by a number of artists, such as Japan’s Onagawa Kuniyoshi and Britain’s Lewis Wayne.

Cats introduce themselves

In a suburb of London, the city of fog, in 1860, it is probable that “William Wayne”, an English textile merchant, was relieved of anxiety (2) after his French wife went into labour. Time passed slowly and hard, until the couple finally saw the face of their first child, “Louis,” who cried so much for a while before he fell asleep. A few years later, nightmares haunted the little boy who didn’t start school until ten; Because of his cleft lip.

Wayne would often slip out of school due to the biting irony he received for his lip, and wander around London among parks and museums, listening to sailors’ fairy tales (3), examining the disparate behaviors of the people in the city, which he would later paint in a picture caricatures; Meanwhile, it seems that the cats received him warmly, and this is one of the reasons why humans are attached to cats in particular, in their wide eyes, Wayne must have felt his tangible presence, and that there are those who show joy in his presence.

Research has shown that cats have calming abilities, shown in lowering blood pressure and the release of dopamine and serotonin, the neurotransmitters responsible for happiness, satisfaction and feelings of reward (4) (5). In light of that fact, we can speculate that Wayne approached the kitten out of a lack of affection and acceptance.

In fact, Wayne’s tours led to him becoming a landscape painter and journalistic artist for several magazines, specializing in animals, country scenes, and birds (6). Suddenly, he found himself in love with his sisters’ babysitter, Emily Richardson, who was 33 years old, ten years older than him (7). His family revolted against the marriage and refused to attend the wedding. It wasn’t long before Emily was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she was bedridden. At that time, a thought came to Wayne, to distract her from her misfortune, and to keep her spirits high, by drawing the expressions of their little spotted cat Peter (8). The drawings provided Emily with joy, she contemplated the details that were crowded with passion, with the crowds of colors used.

Emily urged her husband to submit the drawings of the kittens to the publishers, and he did, but they were received lukewarmly (9), for cats were still treated with suspicion and disdain in the United Kingdom and the United States. Drought and pests that devour crops (10). Although many farmers and merchants quietly allowed cats to kill rodents, they were so hated that they were publicly burned at festivals in England.

In the Wayne community, by contrast, the cats of the Wayne community were sociable, fished in a river, sang, smiled, ate, played sports, danced, smoked and whispered cigars while other kittens played the violin, sipped tea, played croquet, went to the opera and perhaps to war; What prompted the British novelist George Wells (11) to write about Wayne saying: “He made the cat his own. He invented a style for cats, a community and a whole world for them. British cats that don’t look and live like Louis Wayne’s cats are ashamed of themselves.”

With time, Wayne’s cats switched from meek to openly sarcastic, dressed in contemporary clothes and showing a human face that reflected a mixture of delight, disgust, bewilderment and frustration. Wayne used his cats to satirize the claims of Edwardian society, art dealer Chris Beatles says of that: “At the time, the English public was prepared to laugh at themselves more easily when subjected to social humor through animals.”

As for Wayne himself, he wrote of it, “I take an official book to a restaurant, or any other public place, and paint people in their various positions as cats, and give them as much as possible of their human characteristics. I think these studies are the best humorous work.” Ultimately, through his art and activities, Wayne is credited with pushing people to treat cats as domestic pets, especially the Edwardian upper class. The idea of ​​animal abuse soon became unacceptable (12).

In a speech Wayne gave to the first national cat club he headed in 1889, he said, “I have tried to erase once and for all the contempt with which the cat has been kept in the country, and to raise it to a real and permanent place in the house. I have found for myself, as a result of many years of research and study, that the people who keep cats And those who are accustomed to its care, do not suffer from those little ailments inherited by all men, such as nervous complaints, hysteria, and rheumatism.”

A short history of Christmas cats

Wayne’s rise to fame came when Macmillan was commissioned by the prestigious Macmillan publishing house to paint a children’s book titled The Madame Tapie Foundation. The book is about a young girl who is accepted into the court of the Cat King and goes to Madame Tapie to teach her cat etiquette. The book, published in the fall of 1886, was a hit with the Victorian Fathers. That Christmas, Illustrated London News published Wayne’s new 11-panel story, A Cat Christmas Party, in which 150 cats are preparing for the festive season, writing invitations, preparing for speeches and playing games.(13)(14)

The work caused a sensation and became famous, but Wayne’s happiness did not last long, and a few months after that celebration, Emily bid him farewell after three years of marriage (15). Her departure caused a shock from which he never recovered, sowed him with deep sorrow, and from then on he became a tormented, irritable man, deserted by happiness, and possessed by the premonition that their pet cat Peter had touched Emily’s soul.

Wayne’s paintings changed at that stage, became more abstract, and pain stained their sides, radiating emotions expressed in colors such as red, blue and purple, with burning yellow eyes, against a bright orange background. Cats become fierce and sometimes disappear into shimmering shapes and geometric patterns, according to art historian Frances Spalding. These vivid patterns were probably inspired by his fascination with electricity, which was still poorly understood by the general public at the time.

Over time, kittens changed in shape and color. Described by art critic Jeff Cox as “psychotic cats”(16), she finds her naughty with a broad, mysterious smile, her bright, multi-coloured eyes gazing into horizons of tangled foliage and jeweled pink mountains. These otherworldly cats are always weird, cheerful, unknown and unsettling.

Cadeloscope cats

These paintings confirmed the controversy over Wayne’s diagnosis of schizophrenia and its impact on his creative output, making Wayne’s art inextricably intertwined with the development of his mental illness. This thesis arose in part from judgments made by psychiatrist Walter McClay. In a letter dated July 31, 1939, a few weeks after Wayne’s death, McClay wrote: “I have found some pictures of Louis Wayne in a little shop in Camden Hill, and they show patterns so contrasting that I feel that some were done before his illness, and some after.” (17)(18).

McClay continues separately that Wayne’s state of mind gradually deteriorated 19 at the same time that his cats’ eyes were saturated with colored circles and the cat was surrounded by a multicolored halo. At some point, recognizing the cat itself in the painting became difficult. His theory was that the more fragmented the sequence of cat illustrations became, the more that was a sign of the artist’s deteriorating mental state as well. The series of drawings, now known as Kaleidoscope Cats, is a popular visual example of the schizophrenic mind.

Cadeloscope cats

Final stage

Wayne continued to build pictures of mad, naked cats in the sanitarium where he was confined for 15 years. After the death of his two sisters, the artist’s delusions became more violent and sinister (20). He spent hours in his room, writing about a group of souls that filled him with electricity, and accusing his sisters of conspiracy, abuse, and theft. His volatile tendencies and unstable moods worsened until he developed a persecution complex and became suspicious of his family. One of his most influential drawings appears, a small chalk and ink drawing of a smiling cat that reads: “I’m glad everyone loves me.” The cat may be laughing, and its eyes may be shining, but it carries something of the sadness of its creator.

Shortly before World War I, when paper became scarce and commissions were few, Wayne also produced a series of radical glazed porcelain cats that conformed to the principles of Futurism and Cubism. Only a few have survived; Because a large cargo destined for the United States sank in the Atlantic Ocean when the cargo ship that was on board was torpedoed. By World War I, Wayne’s cats had taken on a somewhat sinister look. One of his most famous illustrations, called “ENTRENCHED”, features a cat holding a cigar in one paw and a gun in the other(21).

Wayne left an extended legacy, and in his imaginary memory he still walks along an imaginary beach, and in his consciousness the memory of a woman he was important to, and in his wake his cats who did not let him down in the white pages and in existence, a man pulled the cats of his city out of the fog, and hurried in his walk, thinking that a ball It was this fantasy that inspired director Will Sharp to make a biopic about Wayne, The Electrical Life of Louis Wain, starring the esteemed Benedict Cumberbatch. , which is being shown these days on the Amazon Prime platform.



  1. The Divan of Cats: What the Old Rat Said of Practitioner Cats, T.C. Eliot. Translated and presented by: Dr. Sabri Hafez
  2. Louis Wain: his life, his art and his mental illness
  3. Lost in Catland: the life of Louis Wain
  4. The Science-Backed Benefits of Being a Cat Lover
  5. The Power of Pets
  6. Cute Cats and Psychedelia: The Tragic Life of Louis Wain
  7. previous source
  8. Louis Wain and His Weird Cats
  10. Why Cats were hated in Medieval Europe
  11. Louis Wain: The Man Who Loved Cats
  13. Louis Wain and His Weird Cats
  14. Louis Wain devoted his tragic life to his dying wife and to cats
  16. Louis Wain and His Weird Cats
  17. Louis Wain: The Man Who Loved Cats
  18. Louis Wain and His Weird Cats
  19. Tag Archives: Walter Maclay
  20. Louis Wain (1860-1939)
  21. Louis Wain and His Weird Cats

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