'The Electrical Life of Louis Wain': Inside Louis Wain's marriage to Emily Richardson

Louis Wain and Emily Richardson's marriage might have been a short one, but her impact on his career remained profound


                            'The Electrical Life of Louis Wain': Inside Louis Wain's marriage to Emily Richardson
Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy in 'The Electrical Life of Louis Wain' (Amazon Studios)
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For an artist finding a muse can be pivotal to their career. A muse serves as a source of inspiration and can often help artists truly develop a style, an aesthetic and even help them build an entire career from said inspiration. But one can't tell when or where inspiration might strike and sometimes, it seems to come from the most unlikely places. For Louis Wain, that was certainly the case. However, his works can truly be considered the cornerstone of cat-inspired art we see today.

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As an artist, Wain illustrated for journals like Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News and The Illustrated London News. Wain was known was his ability to draw all sorts of animals and while he hoped to make a living by drawing dog portraits, his wife Emily Richardson help him discover his unique talent for drawing cats.

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Who was Emily Richardson?

Emily Richardson was Wain's wife. Richardson was his sisters' governess, and was responsible for his sisters' education and general learning. Their marriage was considered scandalous due to the fact that Wain was 23 at the time of the marriage, while Richardson was 33, marking a 10 year age gap between the pair. The couple moved to  Hampstead in north London. 

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Claire Foy as Emily Richardson in 'The Electrical Life of Louis Wain' (Courtesy of Amazon Studios).

How did she die?

However, their marriage was short-lived, as Richardson began to suffer from breast cancer and died within just three years into their marriage. One of the things that brought Richardson great joy during her illness was her pet cat, Peter, a stray black and white kitten who had been rescued on a rainy night. Look and Learn recounts that Peter was actually a gift from Wain's sisters, in hope that it would distract her from her illness. Regardless of Peter's origins, the cat truly provided comfort to an ailing Richardson.

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With his wife's spirits lifted, Wain began making more sketches of Peter, as he spent time with his wife. Richardson herself strongly encouraged him to have his sketches published, but did not live long enough to see it happen, as she died in 1887. Peter is recognisably in a lot of Wain's early published works, with him even writing -- "To him, properly, belongs the foundation of my career, the developments of my initial efforts, and the establishing of my work." 

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You can watch 'The Electrical Life of Louis Wain' on November 5, 2021 onwards on Amazon Prime Video.

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