The Electrical Life of Louis Wain

Hear Prof Lieu and Lauryn’s reactions to the film The Electrical Life of Louis Wain, focusing specifically on Louis Wain’s cat drawings. This video explores the many facets of Louis Wain’s career as an artist: his inspiration from cats, the popularity of his images, the distribution of them, as well as how his artistic style evolved later in his life. Discussion led by Art Prof Clara Lieu and Teaching Artist Lauryn Welch.

Video Walkthrough

  • Louis Wain had poor business skills, he often sold his artwork outright and did not copyright his images.
  • The film showed the life of a freelance artist: making connections with art directors, getting gigs.
  • There is a theory among psychiatrists that the stylistic evolution of Wain’s artwork was due to his schizophrenia. (his schizophrenia is disputed)
  • There is an artist stereotype of artists having mental illness, why can’t the change in Wain’s style simply be that, the evolution of an artist?
  • Louis Wain is an artist whose images are very well known, yet his name as an artist is relatively obscure.
  • Many artists are pressured to think that images that are sentimental or humorous are somehow not “meaningful enough.”
  • Sometimes the ideas for your artwork are right in front of you: in Louis Wain’s case it was his wife’s illness that compelled him to draw cats.
  • Louis Wain was an extremely prolific and productive artist.
  • The cat drawings painted later in Wain’s life could have shown the influence of patterns seen in textiles and wallpaper of the Victorian era.
  • Building a relationship with a mentor can be very helpful when first getting started with your career.

Artists Mentioned

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