Canongate lets Louis Wain's Cats out the bag

Canongate lets Louis Wain's Cats out the bag

Canongate is to jointly publish Louis Wain's Cats by Chris Beetles, featuring a new foreword by actor Benedict Cumberbatch.

The book will publish alongside a forthcoming release of the film, "The Electrical Life of Louis Wain", starring Cumberbatch. The book will be released by Canongate and Chris Beetles Ltd on 4th November 2021. 

The publisher said: "The Louis Wain cat is arguably the last century’s most recognisable image in cat art. During their heyday, in the time before the First World War, Louis Wain’s cats, dressed as humans, portrayed that stylish Edwardian world having fun: at restaurants and tea parties, going to the races and the seaside, and celebrating Christmas and birthdays. This is a world of cats at play, uninhibited and slightly dangerous, with most group activities likely to turn into mishap, mayhem and catastrophe. 

"This is Wain’s world, funny, edgy and animated: a whole cat world. The first comprehensive exhibition of Wain’s work was held at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London in 1972 and, since then, Louis Wain has steadily become more fashionable, and collected worldwide. This biography contains 300 plates of richness and variety, all of which are reproduced faithfully from the original artwork."

Beetles is a dealer in British art, with a world-leading specialisation in cartoons and illustrations. The Royal College of Art appointed him an honorary fellow in 2003 in recognition of his services to illustration. Since 1983, Beetles has been the main populariser of Louis Wain through a series of annual shows and recognised as the leading authority on the artist.

He said: "Louis Wain lived a unique and talented life, in which he experienced fame and celebrity and then failure, penury and the asylum. He is now a star again."

Jamie Byng, c.e.o. and publisher of Canongate, acquired world rights in the book direct from the author. He said: "Nick Cave introduced me to Louis Wain’s work many years ago via his extensive collection of Wain’s art and I was immediately struck by its distinctive character and Wain’s remarkable draughtmanship. When I heard subsequently that Benedict Cumberbatch would be playing Wain in a feature film based on his life, I wondered whether there were any substantial books on Wain in print. There weren’t, but thankfully Chris Beetles had published a sumptuously illustrated and beautifully designed monograph that also doubles up as a biography. And I am delighted that we are now reissuing Chris’ superb book with an insightful foreword from Benedict, as it is not only a great book but this forthcoming movie is bound to generate a lot of interest in this overlooked and brilliant artist."

Cumberbatch has also praised the book, saying: "Chris Beetles’ book is a joy, an inspiration and as thorough a document into understanding the life and times of Louis Wain as one could hope to read."