Friday, October 06, 2006

Arts and Madness~Schizophrenia

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Louis Wain and Peter

The British artist Louis Wain was a highly successful illustrator whose reputation was made on his singular and gently humorous pictures of cats. A cat-lover himself and sometime President of The National Cat Club, Wain claimed in an interview in 1896 that his "fanciful cat creations" were first suggested to him by Peter, his black & white cat.

Demand for Wain's work diminished in the decade after the outbreak of the First World War, leaving him progressively impoverished. He began to show signs of mental disorder (schizophrenia), including becoming aggressive, abusive and sometimes violent. In 1924 he was certified insane and placed in the paupers' ward of Springfield Hospital at Tooting. Despite his delusional state, Wain continued to draw and paint, which led a year later to him being recognized by one of the hospital guardians and transferred to a private room at the Royal Bethlem Hospital in Southwark, with money raised through public appeal.

schiz·o·phre·ni·a (skts-frn-, -frn-) n.
  • Any of a group of psychotic disorders usually characterized by withdrawal from reality, illogical patterns of thinking, delusions, and hallucinations, and accompanied in varying degrees by other emotional, behavioral, or intellectual disturbances. Schizophrenia is associated with dopamine imbalances in the brain and defects of the frontal lobe and is caused by genetic, other biological, and psychosocial factors.
  • A situation or condition that results from the coexistence of disparate or antagonistic qualities, identities, or activities: the national schizophrenia that results from carrying out an unpopular war.

In Bethlem he was allowed to draw as much as he liked, and it was here that he produced the first of his fascinating series of "kaleidoscope" cats. These ranged from relatively straightforward renderings of the cat itself, though painted in intense, non-naturalistic color and surrounded by intricate geometric patterns which deny any illusion of spatial depth, to images in which the figure of the cat is exploded in a burst of geometric fragments, the like of which are not to be found in any of Wain's work before his illness. In 1930 he was moved to Napsbury in Hertfordshire, where he continued to work sporadically until his death in 1939.
Want to learn more? Here are some sources:
Child and Teen Support
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Have a good day everyone!

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N Posted by Rain at 10/06/2006 08:13:00 AM


  • Blogger marie posted at 9:25 PM  
    Rain, love the pics with this post. I don't know much about Schizophrenia. I must it is awful to live with. Bi-Polar is my disorder of choice. I was diagnosed about a year ago. The only reason there is a mental illness week is because people still live in fear of what the don't and won't understand.
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