ARTBOOK LOGO

ARTBOOK BLOG

RECENT POSTS

DATE 7/20/2019

The Eagle Has Landed … Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the First Moon Landing, July 20, 1969

DATE 6/30/2019

A rare ethic of communion in Pride Month pick, 'Tom Bianchi: 63 E 9th Street'

DATE 6/27/2019

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of Stonewall & Pride Month 2019 with these Staff Picks!

DATE 6/23/2019

'Keith Haring: Manhattan Penis Drawings for Ken Hicks' is a Pride Month Pick

DATE 6/22/2019

Trip out on Bill Owens never-before-published photographs of the infamous Altamont festival, 1969

DATE 6/21/2019

Money shots galore in Steidl's monumental ‘Juergen Teller: Handbags’

DATE 6/20/2019

Celebrating Corpus Christi with 'Phyllis Galembo: Mexico Masks Rituals'

DATE 6/19/2019

Emotional, excessive and disorderly in a good way. 'Less Is a Bore: Maximalist Art & Design' to open at ICA Boston

DATE 6/18/2019

Celebrate 50 years with 'Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music'

DATE 6/17/2019

Wonderful strange power in 'Visions of Enchantment: Occultism, Magic and Visual Culture'

DATE 6/16/2019

Fathers, family and more in forthcoming favorite, 'Who Is Michael Jang?'

DATE 6/16/2019

Celebrate Pride Month with 'Hugh Steers: The Complete Paintings'

DATE 6/14/2019

Celebrate the extraordinary freedom of Cookie Mueller in this Pride Month Pick

DATE 6/14/2019

Join Chinatown Soup and Femme Mâché for a Zine Making Workshop & Swap at the MoMA PS1 Book Space

DATE 6/14/2019

Stas Orlovski, Shana Nys Dambrot & Claressinka Anderson to launch 'Projections 2012–2018' at Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles

DATE 6/14/2019

Mona Kuhn in conversation and signing 'She Disappeared into Complete Silence' at Artbook at Hauser & Wirth Los Angles Bookstore

DATE 6/14/2019

Bill Owens to sign 'Altamont 1969' at Arcana

DATE 6/13/2019

Celebrate Pride Month with Tom Bianchi's '63 E 9th Street: NYC Polaroids 1975–1983'

DATE 6/11/2019

OTD in 1968: Roman Polanski released 'Rosemary's Baby'

DATE 6/11/2019

The ICA Los Angeles presents Hervé Tullet Reading & Signing at Hauser & Wirth

DATE 6/10/2019

Once Upon a Time in the West was Sergio Leone's 'gift to America of its lost fairy stories'

DATE 6/10/2019

Exterior, interior and virtual all at once in 'Landscape Painting Now' painter Corrine Wasmuht

DATE 6/8/2019

Celebrate the Grand Slam with Stephan Würth’s ‘Tennis Fan'

DATE 6/7/2019

Watch the great trailer for Michael Lang's official 50th Anniversary 'Woodstock' book!

DATE 6/7/2019

Hyperreality enjoined by feeling in 'Landscape Painting Now'

DATE 6/6/2019

Neither Amazons nor Furies, Margot Bergman's subjects are true anti-heroines

DATE 6/5/2019

Landmark 'Peter Halley: Paintings of the 1980s' catalogue raisonné is new from JRP|Ringier

DATE 6/4/2019

Sir Christopher Frayling speaking and signing 'Once Upon a Time in the West' at Rizzoli

DATE 6/4/2019

Amazing 'Mrinalini Mukherjee' opens at The Met Breuer

DATE 6/3/2019

Interpretation and communication in 'Berenice Abbott: Portraits of Modernity'

DATE 6/1/2019

Kader Attia represents the unrepresented in 'Landing Strip'

DATE 5/31/2019

Peter Halley and Kim Conaty to launch 'Peter Halley: Paintings of the 1980s. The Catalogue Raisonné' at Mast Books

DATE 5/31/2019

A beautiful facsimile of Paul Gauguin's fearless, infamous 'Intimate Journals'

DATE 5/30/2019

In Phyllis Galembo's new book on the mask cultures of Mexico, ritual object and corporal body become one

DATE 5/30/2019

Trevor Paglen in conversation with Ben Wizner at the MoMA PS1 Book Space

DATE 5/30/2019

Join us for the launch of Phyllis Galembo's 'Mexico Masks Rituals' at Howl!

DATE 5/29/2019

Photos rather like Proust's madeleine in 'William Klein: Celebration'

DATE 5/28/2019

In 'The Raven/Le Corbeau/The Raven,' an epic approach to reading both Mallarmé and Poe

DATE 5/27/2019

Something resembling truth in 'Jasper Johns'

DATE 5/25/2019

Mona Kuhn in conversation and signing 'She Disappeared into Complete Silence' at Arcana: Books on the Arts

DATE 5/25/2019

Transcendental dimension in Mona Kuhn's 'She Disappeared into Complete Silence'

DATE 5/24/2019

Martin Scorsese on 'Once Upon a Time in the West'

DATE 5/24/2019

Congratulations to the winners of the AIGA/Design Observer 50 Books | 50 Covers competition 2018!

DATE 5/23/2019

Morbid Anatomy presents 'Mexico Masks Rituals: An Evening with Photographer Phyllis Galembo' at Green-Wood Cemetery

DATE 5/23/2019

Days and nights of demons in 'Phyllis Galembo: Mexico Masks Rituals'

DATE 5/22/2019

'Phyllis Galembo: Mexico Masks Rituals' is NEW from Radius Books & D.A.P.

DATE 5/21/2019

'Lee Friedlander: Signs' is a photobook for photobook lovers

DATE 5/20/2019

Trevor Paglen's new book offers an enigmatic glimpse into decades of covert operations

DATE 5/19/2019

Spiritual striving and emotional urgency in 'Modern Mystic: The Art of Hyman Bloom'

DATE 5/18/2019

Congratulations Susan Meiselas, winner of the 2019 Deutsche Börse photography prize!

DATE 5/18/2019

Rohina Hoffman to launch 'Hair Stories' with a conversation and signing at Arcana: Books on the Arts


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