ARTBOOK LOGO

ARTBOOK BLOG

RECENT POSTS

DATE 3/14/2020

Jeff Divine '70s Surf Photographs' launch at Arcana

DATE 3/12/2020

ICP presents Martine Fougeron and Sasha Bush in conversation, followed by a signing of 'Nicolas & Adrien'

DATE 3/1/2020

Staff Picks for Women's History Month

DATE 2/24/2020

Surprising, previously unseen works on paper by Barkley L. Hendricks

DATE 2/23/2020

Betye Saar featured today on CBS Sunday Morning

DATE 2/22/2020

Fabulously idiosyncratic and humorous, 'Who Is Michael Jang?' reviewed in the 'Washington Post'

DATE 2/21/2020

In 'Nicolas & Adrien,' memory transcended and a mother's gift of love

DATE 2/20/2020

Save 75–85% at our 2020 LA Showroom Sample Sale!

DATE 2/20/2020

Behold Ellsworth Kelly's final masterpiece, 'Austin'

DATE 2/19/2020

Gorgeous, substantial, slipcased 384-page 'Agnes Denes: Absolutes and Intermediates' is NEW from The Shed

DATE 2/18/2020

Inequities and shared humanity in the prints of Alison Saar

DATE 2/17/2020

'Joyful Designs: Rediscovering the Textiles of Marguerita Mergentime' at Palm Springs Modernism

DATE 2/17/2020

For Washington's Birthday, the textiles of American Modernist Marguerita Mergentime

DATE 2/16/2020

Celebrate Black History with 'Gordon Parks: Muhammad Ali'

DATE 2/15/2020

Prescient, playful hardcore self-portraiture in 'Peter Berlin: Icon, Artist, Photosexual'

DATE 2/15/2020

Peter Berlin cocktails and signing at Tom of Finland, Los Angeles

DATE 2/15/2020

'New York: Club Kids' Los Angeles Launch & Signing at The Standard

DATE 2/14/2020

In Todd Gray's work, beauty as weapon and comment on colonialism

DATE 2/13/2020

Get 'A *New* Program for Graphic Design' by David Reinfurt at the CAA Conference in Chicago

DATE 2/12/2020

See Peter Saul at the New Museum, read 'Pop, Funk, Bad Painting and More'

DATE 2/12/2020

Tess Taylor, Linda Gordon and Sarah Meister on Dorothea Lange at McNally Jackson, Nolita

DATE 2/11/2020

A timely message in 'Lubaina Himid: Workshop Manual'

DATE 2/10/2020

Boom boxes, break dancing and the Salsa King: Fashion Week Black History from Jamel Shabazz

DATE 2/9/2020

Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures opens today at MoMA

DATE 2/9/2020

Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth LA Bookstore presents Christopher Frayling and Tony Nourmand on 'French New Wave: A Revolution in Design'

DATE 2/8/2020

Join Artbook at Frieze Los Angeles | February 13–16, 2020!

DATE 2/8/2020

Nasher Sculpture Center presents Michael Rakowitz Community BBQ & Cookbook

DATE 2/8/2020

Celebrate Black History Month with 'Separate Cinema: The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art'

DATE 2/8/2020

When Black History Month meets NY Fashion Week… Sory Sanlé: Volta Photo

DATE 2/8/2020

Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth LA Bookstore presents Christopher Frayling on 'Once Upon a Time in the West'

DATE 2/6/2020

Vincent Desailly's photographs document everyday scenes in Atlanta's trap culture

DATE 2/6/2020

Join Artbook | D.A.P. at the 2020 CAA Conference in Chicago

DATE 2/1/2020

Staff Picks for Black History Month, 2020

DATE 2/1/2020

Celebrate Black History Month with 'Among Others'

DATE 2/1/2020

Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth LA Bookstore presents 'The Promise' and 'Forgotten Journey' panel

DATE 2/1/2020

Join us at SHOPPE OBJECT 4.0 Independent Home & Gift Show, Winter 2020!

DATE 2/1/2020

Jordan Peele on 'Get Out' and writing for the Black audience

DATE 1/31/2020

Chantal Akerman's devastating memoir, 'My Mother Laughs,' is back in stock

DATE 1/30/2020

Behold Vitra's monumental 'Atlas of Furniture Design'!

DATE 1/29/2020

A trove of previously unpublished photography in 'Mitch Epstein: Sunshine Hotel'

DATE 1/28/2020

A new, expanded edition of Joel Sternfeld's seminal 'American Prospects'

DATE 1/27/2020

'Keld Helmer-Petersen: Photographs 1941–2013' is a revelation

DATE 1/25/2020

In 'Nadav Kander: The Meeting,' something more than just this moment

DATE 1/25/2020

Graphing living matter: 'Charles Gaines: Palm Trees and Other Works'

DATE 1/25/2020

The Outwardness of Art: Thomas Evans on Adrian Stokes at SVA

DATE 1/23/2020

All Hail 'Choupette by Karl Lagerfeld'

DATE 1/21/2020

The ultimate book on Danish Lights of the last century

DATE 1/21/2020

Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth LA Bookstore presents 'Imaginary Museums' author Nicolette Polek

DATE 1/20/2020

We honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with Lee Friedlander's 'Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom'

DATE 1/19/2020

Celebrate Martin Luther King with 'Builder Levy: Humanity in the Streets'

DATE 1/18/2020

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with 'Jill Freedman: Resurrection City, 1968'


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