Famed for his humorous anthropomorphic paintings of cats, he typically produced several hundred drawings a year.
These feline depictions had their roots in an emotionally intense period when his wife was dying of cancer. To comfort her he brought home a stray kitten they named Peter – the subject of his earliest cat drawings.
Although the artist’s work became hugely popular in Victorian and early 20th century society, he was increasingly troubled by his mental health. He ended up in poverty and on a pauper’s ward in a hospital. But after a campaign to help him he was tranferred to London's Bethlem Hospital.
As with his cat creations, the film has divided opinion among critics. But Wain certainly has many fans among collectors and his work regularly appears at auction (including the striking Cubist-style ceramic cats he also produced).
Wain designed a set of nine cats, a pig and a dog that were shown at an exhibition in 1914. The collection, made first by the Max Emmanuel factory and later by Amphora, sold in only small numbers.
A large example of one of Wain’s pottery felines featured in Webb’s decorative arts sale in Auckland, New Zealand, back on March 15, 2020. The cat had been found in 1986 at a garage sale by the vendor when it cost just NZ$1.
At 11 x 9½in (28 x 24cm), this seated cat was one of the larger examples, glazed in green with details in yellow and red. It had a range of printed marks and is also impressed Futurist Cat and Louis Wain.
The piece generated considerable pre-sale interest from overseas but sold to a local collector at double the estimate for NZ$9250 (£4510).
In June 2008, The Canterbury Auction Galleries realised a record price for a Louis Wain ceramic when another version of this large model in blue with Amphora factory marks sold at £8200.
But many items sell for below this.
A Paragon China child’s mug, from a collectable series, titled A Morning Trim, sold at £100 at Bolton Auction Rooms on December 7 2020.
Currently there are a number of examples on offer at upcoming auctions including four postcards (pictured top) featuring Wain designs at Lockdales’ auction in Ipswich on January 21-23 estimated at £30-40.
There is an original work by Wain in Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood's January 18-20 sale.
The Night Before Christmas, a 21 x 29.5in (54 x 75cm) signed watercolour en grisaille heightened with white, is estimated at £2000-3000.
A copy of Wain’s Catland Stories from Father Tuck’s ‘Furry Mascot’ series edited by Capt Edric Vredenburg and published by Raphael Tuck (c.1915) will be offered at Stroud Auctions of Gloucestershire on January 12-13.
With an inscription dated 1916, it is offered together with a copy of MAC by Cecil Aldin, published by Henry Frowde and Hodder & Stoughton (c.1915).
See more items by Louis Wain at auction via thesaleroom.com.