Louis Wain, the forgotten man of games

Louis Wain (5 August 1860 – 4 July 1939) was an English artist who is forever associated with cats. They are distinctively 'Wainish' in their style, a style he didn't adopt until the period of his wife's terminal illness.

Wain started his career working for magazines like the Illustrated London News and even then was noted for his animal pictures although, at that time, they were standard fare that Victorians expected to see. His wife became ill in 1883 and he spent most of his time looking after her. Whilst at home he started drawing pictures of their cat Peter. He did not know it then but this was the theme that would earn his place in art history. Later he said of Peter, "To him, properly, belongs the foundation of my career, the developments of my initial efforts, and the establishing of my work."

His wife died in 1886 and in the same year some of his cat pictures were published in a special Christmas issue of the Illustrated London News. The pictures were much admired and before long he regularly had illustrations in books and magazines. There was even a Louis Wain Annual published every year for 15 years (those books are much sought after today and, of course, horribly expensive).

Louis Wain was very popular and in demand but money slipped through his hands like water. In the early 20th century he sank into depression and his family had to care for him. When they couldn't cope with him, he was committed to a mental hospital, one that was known as a pauper's asylum. When this became public knowledge, celebrity supporters, notably H. G. Wells, had him transferred to a much nicer hospital in 1924 and he lived their until he died in 1939. Wells memorably said of Wain's work, "He has made the cat his own. He invented a cat style, a cat society, a whole cat world. English cats that do not look and live like Louis Wain cats are ashamed of themselves."

Now, why all this talk of Louis Wain? Simply because I have never seen a game that featured Louis Wain artwork. Not one Snap, not one Schwarzer Peter, not one Snakes & Ladders, and so on. His pictures are so full of humour they would have so suited the world of games. I live in hope that someone somewhere will show me a Christmas Annual with a game in it illustrated by this genius. But until then, here are some game covers I have that do feature cats. If anyone knows the artists involved but not the obvious ones, Garfield, etc,), please tell me, I would love to know.

 

SOME CATS, FROM CUTE PHOTOS TO ZWARTE PIET ARTISTRY
First, the photographic 
covers

Clifford

FX Schmid

Ravensburger

Jumbo

Waddingtons

Jumbo

Omnium-Waalwijk

Otto Maier Benelux

ASS

ASS

Berliner

Berliner

FX Schmid

FX Schmid

Identity Games

FX Schmid

 

Second: A very 
popular cat image, 
Puss in Boots

 

Heraclio Fournier

FX Schmid

Grimaud

Simba

Berliner

ASS

Dr. Herbert Schulze

Schwager & Steinlein

FX Schmid

Fritz Schulz

 

Third: A Schwarzer Peter 
international mix

Jumbo

Carlit

ASS

ASS

Berliner

Berliner

Bielefelder

FX Schmid

KiK Retail Shops

Schwager & Steinlein

Vereinigte 
Kunstanstalten Senkeisen

Vereinigte 
Kunstanstalten Senkeisen

FX Schmid

J. CH. 
Mellinger-Verlag

Omnium-Waalwijk

 

 

And finally some 
miscellaneous covers not 
already featured above

Amigo

Heron

ASS

FX Schmid

Heye

Unknown Publisher

Klee

FX Schmid

Selecta

Michael Stanfield

Piatnik

Amigo

Piatnik

 

 

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