FELINE FRENZY

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
To cat-lovers, man's second-best friend is an enigmatic companion, affectionate and intelligent, loyal yet independent. But for many others, letting a cat in through the flap means retrieving endless gravel-studded deposits from the litter tray and picking hair off claw-torn furniture (while sneezing). However, from this weekend, cat-fans and feline-phobics alike can enjoy the whiskered charms of our nine-lived companions.

The annual Louis Wain Summer Cat Show exhibition at the Chris Beetles Gallery features later work from the most famous cat artist in the world, a man once dubbed "The Hogarth of Cat Life" by Punch magazine. The Edwardian artist took to sketching moggies soon after he married, on acquiring a black-and-white puss called Peter, whose kittenish antics amused his bed-ridden wife, Emily. Bright, colourful paintings of "humanised" cats made Wain famous, appearing on popular postcards and in his annuals which were published until 1913. Wain was also a renowned expert on the species and became president of the National Cat Club.

In later years, Wain's harmless eccentricities - such as drinking milk from a saucer at parties - multiplied, and he was admitted to a Napsbury Mental Hospital with schizophrenia. It is work produced during this period which mainly features in the exhibition, with Wain's customary rich backgrounds dragging you into his imaginary world and almost overwhelming the furry subjects, save the odd ear or slanting pair of eyes.

Fifty-seven of the prolific artist's paintings will be on sale and display - including his Chinese cat, (above) - alongside the naturalistic paintings and illustrations of Lesley Fotherby and work by Lesley Anne Ivory and Susan Herbert. "People who buy contemporary cat paintings tend to have cats themselves," according to Fiona Pearce of Chris Beetles. "They won't buy a picture of a tabby if they have a Siamese. Louis Wain crosses those boundaries - he's a unique artist who has never fallen out of favour."

So sidle along to SW1 this weekend, where fellow feline-fanciers will be purring in appreciation over coffee and croissants. And there won't be a fur-ball in sight.

Chris Beetles Gallery, 8-10 Ryder Street, St James's, London SW1 (0171- 839 7551) to 5 Sept

Comments