A Cornell University student’s research project titled “Schizophrenia, Aging and Art” profiles Louis Wain, an early 20th century artist who began to suffer from schizophrenia late in life. While a commercial artist, he drew lots of comics of cats that appeared in newspapers and children’s books.
From the project’s Web site:
During the onset of his disease at 57, Wain continued to paint, draw and sketch cats, but the focus changed from fanciful situations, to focus on the cats themselves.
Characteristic changes in the art began to occur, changes common to schizophrenic artists. Jagged lines of bright color began emanating from his feline subjects. The outlines of the cats became severe and spiky, and their outlines persisted well throughout the sketches, as if they were throwing off energy.
Soon the cats became abstracted, seeming now to be made up of hundreds of small repetitive shapes, coming together in a clashing jangles of color that transform the cat into something resembling an Eastern diety.
The abstraction continued, the cats now being seen as made up by small repeating patterns, almost fractal in nature. Until finally they ceased to resemble cats at all, and became the ultimate abstraction, an indistinct form made up by near symmetrical repeating patterns.