February 25, 2016
Everything you know is wrong: Truth about Louis Wain’s ‘crazy’ cat drawings ‘a little more complicated’
Maclay believed that art was a window into the patient’s mind; he had Wain’s paintings framed and presented them as the illustrated decline of an artist—from cute to crazy. (…)
Besides mental illness, could there be another explanation for the changing styles? Dale noted that the shifts between representational drawings and interpretative cats could have had another source of inspiration—namely, his family’s textile business. “Louis Wain found joy in wallpaper designs,” said Dale. (…)
More recently, a more expansive view of Wain away from “mental patient” has been gaining currency. In 2012, psychiatrist David O’Flynn gave a gallery talk as part of a Wain exhibition, and declared that the paintings were essentially the work of two men—the artist who created them and the doctor who assembled them and lent them new meaning. But the exact, detailed artworks can hardly be seen as the work of “a man who’s losing his ability to draw or create at all” O’Flynn points out.
Even Wain’s accepted diagnosis of schizophrenia has been reexamined in tandem with his renewed popularity— Wain believes he may have suffered from dementia instead. One researcher suggested in a 2002 paper that the artist had Asperger’s Syndrome. And others have suggested that if his diagnosis of schizophrenia was accurate, his beloved cats could be to blame, since parasites found in cat feces may be connected to the disorder.