ARTBOOK LOGO

ARTBOOK BLOG

RECENT POSTS

DATE 12/23/2017

A feast for the eyes: Matisse in the Studio

DATE 12/11/2017

The perfect holiday gift book for the one who doubts everything

DATE 12/9/2017

LSTW launch event at Artbook at MoMA PS1

DATE 12/9/2017

Sex Still Sells! ‘X-rated: Adult Movie Posters of the 60s and 70s’

DATE 12/7/2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017: Stocking Stuffers

DATE 12/7/2017

Arcana presents Mega Photobook Afternoon with Mike Slack, Tim Carpenter and others

DATE 12/6/2017

Nonchalant flirting with oblivion: Ray Johnson

DATE 12/6/2017

Autophoto: an exquisite holiday gift featuring cars and photography, 1900-now

DATE 12/6/2017

Tim Carpenter and Mike Slack in conversation with Ron Jude at Ampersand

DATE 12/6/2017

LAMM presents 'twinnish' at Artbook @ MoMA PS1

DATE 12/6/2017

BACK IN STOCK! Nan Goldin: The Beautiful Smile

DATE 12/5/2017

101 Danish Design Icons: the 'perfekt' holiday gift for design lovers

DATE 12/4/2017

From the salon to the boudoir: 'Casanova: The Seduction of Europe'

DATE 12/4/2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017: Weird and Wonderful Staff Favorites

DATE 12/4/2017

Stephen Shore signing at The Strand

DATE 12/2/2017

Visit Artbook @ Design Miami 2017

DATE 12/1/2017

Must-Have Fashion Book of 2017: The House of Dior

DATE 11/30/2017

Visit Spoonbill Studio's Snail Farm and Friends Book Fair!

DATE 11/30/2017

Visit our Design Book Pop-Up Store at Usagi NY

DATE 11/30/2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017: New York, New York

DATE 11/30/2017

Behold, Thomas Struth

DATE 11/29/2017

Thomas Struth asks, "What are we doing here?"

DATE 11/28/2017

Going beyond in 'Items: Is Fashion Modern?'

DATE 11/27/2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017: Rebels and Resistance!

DATE 11/27/2017

Holiday Gift Staff Pick 'Items: Is Fashion Modern?' transforms the familiar to historically significant

DATE 11/26/2017

The American Surfaces of Stephen Shore

DATE 11/25/2017

Banality and lack of artifice: Stephen Shore

DATE 11/24/2017

A seeming paradox and an American treasure: Stephen Shore

DATE 11/23/2017

Design to the Nth power: Essential Eames

DATE 11/23/2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017: For the Bookworm - Great Reads

DATE 11/22/2017

Bold, dashing color on the table: 'Marguerita Mergentime: American Textiles, Modern Ideas'

DATE 11/21/2017

Unsentimental Wonder: Hilton Als on Alice Neel

DATE 11/20/2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017: For the Fashion Forward

DATE 11/20/2017

SHIPPING NOW! ‘Frankenstein: The First Two Hundred Years’

DATE 11/19/2017

Always someone under the neon lights… Malick Sidibé: Mali Twist

DATE 11/19/2017

STEIDL x STRAND 2017

DATE 11/18/2017

‘Ah, Malick’s here! The photographer’s arrived.’

DATE 11/18/2017

Rizzoli presents 'Items: Is Fashion Modern?' with Paola Antonelli

DATE 11/17/2017

Moments of truth, spirited away in 'Malick Sidibé: Mali Twist'

DATE 11/16/2017

Oliver Clegg Slot Car Race & Book Launch at Artbook @ MoMA PS1

DATE 11/16/2017

Boom boxes, break dancing and the Salsa King: Jamel Shabazz's NYC Street Photographs

DATE 11/16/2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017: Books for Him

DATE 11/15/2017

Holiday Gift staff favorite 'Josef Albers in Mexico' releases today!

DATE 11/15/2017

Jorn Weisbrodt, Rufus Wainwright, Paul Holdengraber, Karen Hopkins & Charles Renfro launch Into the Culture Cave at Artbook @ MoMA PS1

DATE 11/14/2017

Evidence of life before the art market … Club 57

DATE 11/13/2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017: For the Design Devotee

DATE 11/12/2017

Black artist as superhero: Barkley L. Hendricks in 'Soul of a Nation'

DATE 11/10/2017

Soul of a Nation featured on the cover of November ARTFORUM

DATE 11/10/2017

Tell Me Something Good panel and launch with Phong Bui, Jonas Mekas, Shirin Neshat, Shahzia Sikander and Jack Whitten at The Strand

DATE 11/9/2017

For the Collector: Limited Editions & Catalogues Raisonnés

DATE 11/9/2017

Goddess in the Details: Ellen Lupton & Paula Scher at The Strand


EXCERPTS & ESSAYS

ADAM JASPER | DATE 9/15/2010

Radiantly Malevolent: Adam Jasper on the Victorian 'cat artist' Louis Wain, from Cabinet 38: Islands

For a brief period at the end of the nineteenth century, Louis Wain was arguably England’s most reproduced artist. Not England’s most lauded artist, certainly—there are no works by him in the National Gallery, for example—but between 1895 and 1905 some forty books illustrated by Wain appeared on the market, alongside hundreds of postcards, miniatures, mementos, and keepsakes. All of them feature the same subject matter: funny cats. Cats playing golf, cats taking photographs, cats in bow ties or doffing bowler hats.  
Louis Wain: Cat Artist
A pre-insanity Wain drawing, assuming cats playing poker is not insane.

The Louis Wain cat was inquisitive, upper middle class, bright-eyed, and boisterous. He walked upright on his hind legs, wore clothes, used tools, and, although prone to mishaps, had a keen sense of propriety. The Louis Wain cat was not, in short, a cat, but a typically extroverted Edwardian gentleman. “When I was young,” said Wain, “no public man would have dared acknowledge himself a cat enthusiast; now even MPs can do so without danger of being laughed at.”  

Wain first achieved notoriety in 1886 with a Christmas supplement to the Illustrated London News, a narrative drawing called “A Kittens’ Christmas Party.” The image took Wain eleven days to draw, featured over two hundred felines, and ran across a full two pages of the newspaper. That it was printed as a spread is significant; everything not pertaining to Wain’s cat tableau was thereby omitted from the page, creating catland as a humane world free of humans, a kind of virtual utopia. H. G. Wells wrote, “He invented a cat style, a cat society, a whole cat world. English cats that do not look like Louis Wain cats are ashamed of themselves.”

The craze for anthropomorphized adorables is not entirely unfamiliar. In its weakness for the cute, the twenty-first century shares characteristics with the end of the nineteenth, and just as a significant proportion of Internet traffic today is devoted to pictures of baby animals, there soon emerged in Edwardian England a veritable industry dedicated to publishing Wain’s anthropomorphized cats. “A Christmas without one of Louis Wain’s clever catty pictures,” Frances Simpson wrote in The Book of the Cat (1903), “would be like a Christmas pudding without currants.” On the strength of his anatomically implausible caricatures, Wain was eventually elected president of England’s National Cat Club.
Louis Wain: Cat Artist
The craze for anthropomorphized adorables is not entirely unfamiliar. In its weakness for the cute, the twenty-first century shares characteristics with the end of the nineteenth, and just as a significant proportion of Internet traffic today is devoted to pictures of baby animals, there soon emerged in Edwardian England a veritable industry dedicated to publishing Wain’s anthropomorphized cats. “A Christmas without one of Louis Wain’s clever catty pictures,” Frances Simpson wrote in The Book of the Cat (1903), “would be like a Christmas pudding without currants.” On the strength of his anatomically implausible caricatures, Wain was eventually elected president of England’s National Cat Club.  Wain’s preoccupation with cats had its origin in 1883, when, as a junior commercial illustrator of no particular prominence, he had begun to draw his wife’s pet, a black-and-white kitten called Peter, to amuse her. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer and confined to her bed. Peter became her chief companion, Wain’s muse, and a distraction that culminated in an obsession for the artist. Upon Emily’s death three years after her confinement, Wain allegedly claimed that Peter became the vessel of at least a portion of Emily’s soul.
Whether the inception of his illness can be traced back to this experience or not, Louis Wain is now chiefly known for the pictures he created during his subsequent descent into schizophrenia. During the 1890s, he began to make “scientific” observations that he initially expressed with decidedly Victorian eccentricity: “Strangely enough, I once had the impression that a cat’s tendency was to travel north, and to face north as a magnet does, and that this tendency had some intimate association with the electrical strength of its fur.” Wain was unable to negotiate effectively to protect the royalties from his work; moreover, the price of his pictures began to decline, in part due to over-supply. World War I ruined him: funds foolishly invested in inventions, a shipload of futuristic porcelain cats torpedoed on the way to the US, and a general loss of interest in Edwardian pastimes all combined to render Wain destitute.

As his poverty deepened, his concern over the effects of electricity became a terror. After he violently attacked one of his sisters, he was taken to the pauper’s ward of Springfield Hospital in Tooting on 16 June 1924.   It was in the pauper’s hospital that Wain encountered an English bookseller by the name of Dan Rider, whom he met while the latter was undertaking one of the semi-charitable, semi-voyeuristic visits to asylums that were once a typical activity of the middle classes:   I was on a committee that had to make a number of visits to asylums. During one of those visits, I was passing up and down a corridor when I noticed a quiet little man drawing cats. I went to inspect his work.   “Good Lord, man, you draw like Louis Wain.” “I am Louis Wain,” replied the patient. “You’re not, you know,” I exclaimed. “But I am,” said the artist, and he was.   In a subsequent appeal for funds to help Wain, British prime minister Ramsay MacDonald personally intervened, recalling how Wain had been “on all our walls fifteen to twenty years ago.” He went on to attest that “probably no artist has given a greater number of young people pleasure than he has.” In the meantime, Wain was drawing pictures that were increasingly unlike those the prime minister fondly recalled.
Louis Wain: Cat Artist
A work made by Wain sometime after his institutionalization in 1925. Although the exact dates of these works are not known, some of them have been sequenced in psychology textbooks to demonstrate the progressive dissolution of the image in a psychotic breakdown. This analysis was first proposed by Bethlem Hospital psychiatrist Dr. Walter Maclay, who had himself engaged in early experiments in the effects of mescaline on visual perception.

In a set of images that is now often used as a textbook demonstration of the optical effects associated with psychosis, we see a progressive dissolution not unlike that of Lewis Carroll’s disappearing Cheshire Cat (and it is noteworthy that Carroll also suffered severe migraines and associated hallucinations). These were not the only types of images, however, that Wain was capable of creating in his later schizophrenic period. Even in the years leading up to his death in 1939, he produced his typical comic scenes of cats playing various roles within the asylum: as doctors, psychologists, patients, and orderlies. All the same, it is for his distorted images that Wain is best remembered. They display a kind of luxuriant ornamentality that was ascribed to schizophrenic art in general by German psychiatrist Hans Prinzhorn in his epochal Bildnerei der Geisteskranken (Artistry of the Mentally Ill) of 1922. Prinzhorn described such dense edge-to-edge work as motivated by a kind of horror vacui, as if the confrontation with the void was being fought out on paper. In this famous sequence, the cat’s facial expressions become increasingly stunned and empty, or radiantly malevolent. These emanations are initially concealed in the background decoration, a kind of wallpaper that becomes gradually animated into a psychedelic kaleidoscope; the pictures begin to pulse with a constrained energy. (As Wain would title one work: the fire of the mind agitates the atmosphere.) Gradually, the wallpaper and the feline begin to merge into a single mandala. Arabesques spread out from and colonize the face of the cat with increasing density until only two floating eyes remain in the dead center of an infinite crystalline mosaic.
Louis Wain: Cat Artist
Louis Wain: Cat Artist
Louis Wain: Cat Artist
Louis Wain: Cat Artist
Louis Wain: Cat Artist

Cabinet 38: Islands

Cabinet 38: Islands

CABINET
Pbk, 7.75 x 9.75 in. / 112 pgs / 60 color / 40 b&w.

$12.00  free shipping



ARTBOOK LOGO
 
 

the art world's source for books on art & culture

  

CUSTOMER SERVICE
orders@artbook.com
212 627 1999
M-F 9-5 EST

TRADE ACCOUNTS

800 338 2665

CONTACT

JOBS + INTERNSHIPS

NEW YORK
Showroom by Appointment Only
75 Broad Street, Suite 630
New York NY 10004
Tel   212 627 1999

LOS ANGELES
Showroom by Appointment Only
818 S. Broadway, Suite 700
Los Angeles, CA 90014
Tel. 323 969 8985

ARTBOOK LLC
D.A.P. | Distributed Art Publishers, Inc.


All site content Copyright C 2000-2017 by Distributed Art Publishers, Inc. and the respective publishers, authors, artists. For reproduction permissions, contact the copyright holders.

ARTBOOK AMPERSAT

The D.A.P. Catalog
www.artbook.com