Thursday, 21 April 2016

Reblog: The Belle of Mayfair

On Lost in a Good Book the story of The Belle of Mayfair, a contemporary version of  Romeo and Juliet.

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has been a popular choice for artists.  It has also been transposed into other settings such as the film West Side Story showing the New York street gangs of the late 1950s.
In April 1906 a musical called The Belle of Mayfair opened at the Vaudeville Theatre in London.  This was also based on Romeo and Juliet in the current time, Romeo being played by the renowned actor Farren Souter. 

Monday, 11 April 2016

Louis Wain - The man who drew cats

Both my grandmother and my mother collected postcards of cats painted by Louis Wain.

Many of these are of appealing cats with large eyes.  However Wain did not begin his artistic career with cats.  Born the son of a textile trader and embroiderer in Clerkenwell, he lost his father when he was 20 but continued to live with his French mother and his 5 younger sisters for most of his life.  He worked for newspapers such as the Illustrated london News, drawing detailed pictures of English country houses and livestock at agricultural shows.

When he was 23 he married his sisters' governess, Emily Richardson, but sadly she died 3 years later.  While she was suffering from breast cancer she took great comfort from the company of a stray black and white cat which the couple had taken in.  Louis began to draw the cat, eventually publishing his first cat picture in 1886.

Wain illustrated one hundred children's books during his life.  He considered taking up illustrating dogs but decided to experiment with his cat pictures.


At first the cats stood on four legs, but soon they walked upright and wore clothes, which was a popular motif of the day.  They always exhibited exaggerated expressions.  The postcards have always remained popular and from 1901-1915 the Louis Wain annual was published.

Louis had poor business sense and struggled financially to support his mother and sisters.  In the 1920s his behaviour became erratic and occasionally violent so in 1924 his sisters had him committed to the Pauper Ward of a mental hospital in Tooting.  A year later, at the instigation of the Prime Minister, Wain was transferred to Bethlem Royal Hospital where the garden included a colony of cats.


It was said that Louis Wain suffered from schizophrenia and that this could be seen in the bright colours and highly patterned cats he produced in his later years, but it now believed that in fact he had Asperger's Syndrome.  None of his pictures were dated and some argue that if these were his later drawings, they were evidence of his experimentation and artistic maturity.

One thing is certain; you either love them or hate them.



Friday, 18 March 2016

Humorous Greetings

Many of the postcards in my grandmother's collection were really notecards for sending a quick message to a friend.  Usually arriving on the same day they were posted they could be compared to a text or WhatsApp today but perhaps more like Instagram since they include an entertaining picture.

Thanks for Yours

In 1903 my grandmother was 19 years old, the youngest daughter living in Rotherhithe with her parents.  The family were able to have one servant and unlike her mother thirty years earlier, Connie did not have to work.  
So sorry I missed you

She had a busy social life meeting her friends, going to the London theatres and staying with relations in the country.  Sometimes the shortened phrases are rather cryptic.

A little thought

Many of the cards are from an unidentified friend called Mal.  

The note duly reached

Three Little Maids was a musical at the Apollo Theatre.

I shouldn't have thought

This card was posted locally and Mal was planning to catch the bus.


This exhilarating card came from Mary, who wrote more formally.

I need not explain

Laura wrote from Bournemouth, so has sent a friendly greeting.

And finally Connie didn't post this card. perhaps because it was inappropriate!

Things are looking healthy

Lance Thackeray (1870 - 1916) was a gifted artist who specialised in beautifully drawn comic scenes. Thackeray was a founding member of the London Sketch Club. 
Louis Wain's early cat pictures were very popular despite their wild eyes.
You can read the history of the postcards of Raphael Tuck and sons here