Procrastination Destination du Jour: The Cats of Louis Wain

Louis Wain loved cats. He built a career on amusing pictures of anthropomorphized cats (proof that cats were funny long before the internet). In the words of H. G. Wells, “He has made the cat his own. He invented a cat style, a cat society, a whole cat world. English cats that do not look and live like Louis Wain cats are ashamed of themselves.”

But then it got weird. Wain, who had been somewhat unstable all his life and had a family history of mental illness, descended into what was probably schizophrenia and was eventually institutionalized. But he kept drawing. The adorable kittens at christmas parties were replaced by what is really best described as trippy shit. Abstract repetitious patterns, wild colors, and the eyes! oh, the eyes!

Progressions of Louis Wain cats have been used to illustrate psychology text books as a visual record of deteriorating mental health, but maybe it’s too simple to say that the dude went crazy and that’s why he drew such freaky shit. People have questioned the chronology of the drawings: did the change in style really progress in time with the onset of schizophrenia? Maybe he was just experimenting?

In a final touch of divine irony, there have been suggestions that schizophrenia can in rare cases be triggered by toxoplasmosis, a parasite usually contracted from (you guessed it!) cat poop.

So there you have it. Follow the links down the cyber-rabbit holes, and procrastinate away.