"Where's That Bird?" by Louis Wain (circa 1905)
This original watercolor, by the reknowned Louis Wain, was donated to the CFA Foundation in 2015 by John Smithson of New Zealand. The painting, of a mischievous tabby and white cat, was unidentified until removed from the original frame for restoration and re-framing. Only then did we discover the title of the painting written on the back, perhaps in Wain's own handwriting - "Where's That Bird?". Other than the title, nothing is known about this painting; it appears to be unpublished.
Louis Wain, born in 1860, has many ties to the cat fancy - through his artwork, his judging activities, and his work with the National Cat Club in England. He was exceptionally talented artistically, and very well-known for his cat drawings. He began drawing cats as a child when his sister bought him a cat and he started to draw illustrations of it. When his wife was ill, he purchased a kitten, Peter, for her and she found great delight in the kitten's antics, and Wain started drawing Peter extensively. His illustrations were first published in The London Illustrated News in 1886. For years, Wain worked as a freelance illustrator for The Illustrated London News, The Graphic, The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News and other popular periodicals.
Wain also did many drawings, for various publications, which showed cats on exhibit at the various cat shows of the era.
Wain also illustrated several children's books, such as Fairy Tales published circa 1895 by Raphael Tuck & Sons Co Ltd. As well, he published several Louis Wain's Annual books in the early 1900's, which included many stories for children along with hundreds of his drawings.
In 1921, Wain was injured during a fall from a bus. He never fully recovered, and ended his life in an asylum. The quality of his artwork detoriated, along with his mental health, and today much of his later work illustrates his psychotic illness. Wain died in 1939.
For an indepth look a the life and artwork of Louis Wain, please visit our PEOPLE page.
"Where's that Bird?" is on display in the Feline Historical Museum in Alliance, Ohio.
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