Louis Wain was born in London in 1860 into a middle class family. He was educated in London and trained at the West London School of Art, remaining there as a teacher until 1882. His father died in 1880, forcing him to support both his mother and his five younger sisters. To achieve this, he supplemented his income by working as a freelance illustrator and was successful enough to be able to give up his teaching career to join The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News in 1882.
Later, he joined the Illustrated London News, where he became known especially for his whimsical and humorous cat drawings, in particular because he was the first artist to portray cats with human characteristics, both standing and wearing clothes. So great was his success that he was elected President of the National Cat Club in 1891.
However, from these early highs his career gradually descended and he went into a mental decline after the death of his sister in 1917, becoming a schizophrenic. He was eventually rescued from the Paupers Ward of the Middlesex County Mental Asylum in 1925 and a public appeal was launched on his behalf, as a result of which he was transferred to the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Southwark.
The public�s continuing affection for both him and his work ensured that he retained his presidency of the National Cat Club, and he died eventually in 1939 having carved a reputation as perhaps the best known painter of cats in the European art world.