Collecting Louis Wain cats

Louis Wain (1860-1939) made his name painting pictures of full clothed, standing cats drinking tea and playing cards or fishing on a riverbank. He trained at the West London School of Art and became a freelance artist in 1882.

To amuse his wife when she was dying of cancer, he taught their cat Peter to wear spectacles and pretend to read. He sketched Peter, which led to his obsessions with all things feline.

Wain went on to illustrate 100 children’s books and his work was published widely including in the Louis Wain Annual, which ran from 1901 to 1915. These are highly sought by collectors and can fetch up to £50.

Wain also designed several Cubist-style ceramic cats for the Austrian manufacturer, Amphora. This ‘Lucky Futuristic Cat’ figural vase (13cm high) is valued at £1,300-£1,800.

Despite his popularity, Wain was a poor businessman and suffered financial difficulty throughout this life. After the death of his sister, he began to suffer from schizophrenia. He died in the Middlesex Asylum, Napsbury near St Albans.