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Design for a Picture Postcard
Louis William Wain
The Victoria & Albert Museum
The work of Louis William Wain (1860-1939), this Edwardian weirdness in Indian ink, watercolor and gouache is a preliminary painting for a picture postcard. Wain designed a series of postcards depicting kittens doing things that kittens don’t actually do. Typically, the kittens were engaged in “holiday” activities in which one would normally participate while at the seaside. Such “adorable” (or, quasi-disturbing images) were just perfect for the “Wish you were here” mentality of seaside postcards.
In this case, a group of kittens (even the one in a pram) are participating in a spirited game of diabolo. I confess, I didn’t know what the game of diabolo entailed . It seems that it the game originated in China and was brought to Europe by returning missionaries. The goal of the game is to manipulate a double-sided cup (by spinning, catching, twirling, etc.) with a cord attached to two sticks. Whoohoo! Sign me up for the North Texas diabolo team.
Nevertheless, the kittens seem quite happy at it.
The painting was created sometime between 1900 and 1910, and the final version was, indeed, produced as a postcard.