Recently a movie called, The Electrical Life of Louis Wain, hit theaters and was immediately gained attention because it will love. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, as the main character Louis Wain, an artist that lived between 1860 – 1939.
Who was Louis Wain?
Louis Wain was an artist from England, that was well-known for his animated and anthropomorphized cats. When he was 20 years old, his father passed away and he needed to become the man of the house and support his mother and five sisters through his work as an illustrator for London newspapers. He married Emily Richardson in 1883 but became widowed five years later when Emily died of breast cancer. Before Emily died, they had found a kitten that they named Peter and Louis often drew Peter to entertain Emily when she was sick.
Emily was delighted with the drawings and encouraged Louis to publish them. So Louis did just that and his drawings became quite popular. He eventually illustrated 200 books with cat art.
How we look at cats
Prior to Louis Wain’s cat art becoming popular, cats were viewed differently by society. Victorians mostly were good mouse catchers, however, the popularity of Wain’s cats changed people’s view as lovable, smart, and portrayed them as more “human”. H.G. Wells is quoted as saying of Louis in 1925, “He invented a cat style, a cat society, a whole cat world. British cats that do not look and live like Louis Wain cats are ashamed of themselves.”
Wain’s final years
Unfortunately, while Louis was able to change how people viewed cats and create so much cat art, his personal life became sadder as each year passed. A couple of his sisters passed away and he became paranoid, delusional, and obsessed with strange activities including hourly changing furniture in their home or claiming that his sister was plotting to kill him. By 1924, his family had no choice but to have him certified insane and committed to a ward in the Hospital. He continued drawing cats and found great pleasure in this even as he himself was in constant inner distress.