I happened to come by this exhibition by chance as I was visiting the Brent Museum on Friday to visit the ‘Spirited Visions’ exhibition, but I am so glad I did as I really like his work. The exhibition is a large collection of his cat imagery, as well as other imagery I did not know he produced whilst he was inside a mental institution, including houses and shrubbery. The exhibition also made it clear that many of his paintings were not dated and those studying his work at the time, seemed to make assumptions that fitted their ideals. Born in 1860, Louis Wain was a Brent resident and so to have the exhibition here is fitting, although a more central London location, I feel, would have created more footfall to this exhibition. Also more marketing as I had not even heard about it.
Louis Wain is best known for his distinctive ‘humanistic’ style of cat illustrations, which made him a household name by the turn of the twentieth century and helped to popularise the idea of cats as household pets. In his personal life, however, Louis Wain was troubled by mental illness and tragedy, and his work has attracted a wide variety of responses over the past 100 years, generating interest from those working in health care services to cat and art lovers alike.
This exhibition attempts to comprehend how the artist perceived the world around him, and consider how external and internal experiences may have shaped the remarkable body of work he produced. What do the cats of Louis Wain tell us about the artist?
Louis Wain’s work will be on display from 5 May to 29 October at Brent Museum, Willesden Green Library Centre, 95 High Road, London NW10 2SF.