Aby-a-Day – 23 Juli: Louis Wain (Cartoon Tuesday)

In London, we spent a good bit of time looking for treasures in second-hand shops. I was on the hunt for anything regarding the early Abyssinians, and I figured England might be the place to find it. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any Victorian-era cat breeding books, but I did find a print by the pre-eminent cat artist Louis Wain. There were a couple of different ones, actually, but I thought the limerick was charming:

A girl, who was dreadfully flustered,
Helped Ma-in-law to a spoonful of mustard!
Her Ma-in-Law stared,
Asked how she dared!
But she told her she thought it was custard.

The print was marked as being from 1910.

When I got it home and framed it, however, I discovered it wasn’t just a print…it was a page from a book! And the other side was also very cute…but there’s a mark on it that I Photoshopped out when I scanned it, so I kept the limerick side out. Louis Wain is known for more than just his drawing…he also had some sort of mental issues (possibly dementia or schizophrenia; mental illness wasn’t as sophisticated 100 years ago), and, even though he was put in an asylum, he kept drawing cats that became more and more psychedelic as his illness progressed. In the filigree decoration on the back of page seems to presage his future drawings.

He was an incredibly prolific cat artist, and his work was published in books and as postcards. I found this very Aby-looking fellow online as a part of series of postcards celebrating “taking the waters” at Harrogate, one of the first ever “spas” where people went every summer for sulphur treatments. The treatments involved both drinking and soaking in the water, and Wain did four series of six cards each as souvenir/advertising. After finding the Abyssinian “sulphurer,” I became fascinated by these little glimpses into history…probably because, as a kid my dad tricked me into drinking sulphur water from the Lithia water fountain in Ashland, Oregon. I know what it tastes like!

In researching Louis Wain’s work (I was unable to find my images online anywhere, believe it or not, so I don’t know what book my page came from), I also came across this happy little guy. I know know much about him…but doesn’t he look like Izaak!? It actually kind of reminds me of that sketch of Zak I did back in March.