This year’s exceptional display of works reveals an insight into Wain’s world of anthropomorphic cats and the evolution of his style during the last, productive stages of his life whilst receiving treatment for schizophrenia at Middlesex County Asylum.
His later drawings depict jagged cats with tense, chaotic backgrounds accompanied by tranquil and idyllic landscapes that reflect a mind that had at last found some peace and contentment.
The works of four further superlative cat artists feature alongside those by Louis Wain and demonstrate the continued strength and allure of the feline aesthetic.
Kathleen Hale OBE (1898-2000) established a new standard for children’s illustrated books with the immortal creation of Orlando the Marmalade Cat. Preliminary drawings for Orlando and the Three Graces, published in 1965, are included in this year’s Cat Show as well as the original illustration for the back dust jacket and back cover of the book.
Lesley Anne Ivory has gained her reputation as the world’s most popular living painter of cats. The exquisite realism of her cats are enhanced by intricate backgrounds creating an overall sense of complete illustrative accord. Her featured work in the Cat Show demonstrates her skill as a watercolourist and the imaginative quality of her work.
Susan Herbert’s (1945-2014) interpretations of Western Art through the medium of cats provide a highly entertaining and surreal accompaniment. The watercolours featured in this year’s show are previously unseen and include the feline depiction of The Merchant of Venice, Manet’s Eva Gonzales and Modigliani’s Jeanne Hebuterne among others.
Lesley Fotherby’s naturalistic style captures the delicate agility of the domestic cat with charm and immediacy. Paintings included in the exhibition, such as Melbourne, of an exquisitely poised tabby cat, typifies the artist’s sensitive, detailed approach.
Chris Beetles is a leading expert in the work of Louis Wain and his specialist knowledge of cat art makes the show essential viewing for enthusiasts and experts alike. His extensive monograph, Louis Wain’s Cats, published by Worth Press 2011, with over 330 colour plates, details the career and mental decline of the celebrated artist, who, at his most productive, painted 600 images of cats a year. (Louis Wain’s Cats is available at the gallery and to order £25 + p&p).