Among other things, the British artist Louis Wain (1860-1939) painted cats. Although he had formally studied at the West London School of Art and specialized in animal paintings and nature scenes, the cat paintings which would eventually define him began to spring from his brush soon after his marriage in 1883 – his wife was diagnosed with cancer soon after their nuptials, and during the period of illness, she being much comforted by cats, he began to paint cats for her in a comic and anthropomorphic style, until the time of her death, only three years after their marriage.
He continued painting cats after her death, but as the years progressed, his “style” began to change, even as his normally gentle personality transformed into a hostile and paranoid one. This was around the year 1907, and given his age at this time (47), as well as the fact that he seemed to have become profoundly mentally ill at this time, it is widely supposed that he must have been the victim of an atypical, late-onset schizophrenia (schizophrenia usually develops in the late teens and early twenties). Due his close association with cats and a probable infection with toxoplasmosis, which can be acquired from cat feces, a link between toxoplasmosis and schizophrenia has been suggested, but no definitive link has been established, to date. Other authorities have disputed that he had schizophrenia at all, because a diminishment of style often results in artists who develop the disease, and Wain’s art, while increasingly bizarre in appearance, retained its technically competent character.
Asperger’s Syndrome – a form of autism – has been suggested, and this would help explain a certain “eccentricity” and oddness of manner and speech he had possessed much of his life.
Whatever the case, as Wain’s “illness” progressed, his paintings became increasingly bizarre and abstracted in appearance, to the point where they were almost frightening, and often not even recognizable as cats. His work is commonly shown as a progression, to illustrate the changes, as I have done below.