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22 Dec 2021 / film Print

Film review: The Electrical Life of Louis Wain

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s latest film The Electrical Life of Louis Wain is an engaging biopic of an eccentric but ill-fated Victorian genius.

Louis Wain first anthropomorphised cats with his hugely popular 1887 illustrations in the Illustrated London News.

Wain was a highly-skill draughtsman who could sketch with two hands simultaneously and his Christmas cat drawings were an instant sensation.

He drew his felines in evening dress, wearing spectacles, smoking cigars, and playing music. 

Animal rights

An early champion of animal rights, in 1891 Wain became President of the National Cat Club. He lived in an era that favoured dogs, and was suspicious of independent-minded, supercilious cats.

Born with a cleft palate, Wain was the eldest of six siblings and was severely bullied at school. His father died young leaving him as the sole provider for his five dreamy sisters and artistic mother.

Though his sisters long for marriage, no suitors ever come calling.

Despite its huge popularity, Wain failed to copyright his drawings.

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain depicts the family’s sad decline from genteel respectability into poverty, as a result of this loss of intellectual property.

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain opens in cinemas nationwide on New Year’s Eve

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland