I think it was around 1962 when a series of flat cardboard boxes began arriving via the mail to the suburban house in Cedar Rapids where my family lived. Of course I was curious that day when the first one arrived, but my mother said, “It’s addressed to your father — you’ll just have to wait until he gets home, honey.”
The parcel turned out to contain the first of many books in a series called “The Time/Life Science Library”. There was one book in the series which really fascinated me: “The Mind”. It was full of lurid accounts of mental disorders; I, as an eight-year-old who had led a sheltered life, was just amazed and fascinated. In particular the sequence of cat paintings by Louis Wain intrigued me. Those images documented the man’s descent into full-blown schizophrenia in a way that no prose description could have done.
I must confess that I was vividly reminded of those paintings years later during my LSD period in the mid-1970s.
My favorite of the series of paintings is the one at the top of this post. It is fairly representational, without the floridly weird geometric excesses of Wain’s later paintings. There’s something about that cat’s eyes…
Here’s a Youtube video which presents Wain’s descent into madness in a sequential fashion:
There is some resemblance to Van Gogh’s later paintings, in particular his later self-portraits, such as this one: