Reason why Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Louis Wain 'the man who drew cats'

Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Louis Wain because he was an oddball and the actor wants society to accept oddballs. And perhaps he feels that Wain was treated unfairly as some believe that he did not suffer from schizophrenia. It may have been a misdiagnosis.

You may have heard that Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Louis Wain in a new film about this internationally recognised artist who anthropomorphised cats and who entertained millions. Wain suffered from schizophrenia and lived the last years of his life in a mental hospital near St Albans, Hertfordshire, which incidentally I visited as a photographer many years ago. No, I was not in the hospital as a patient! 

It has been developed and is now a housing estate as I understand it. At the time it was quite dour and inhospitable but there is an argument that there is a place for mental hospitals but nowadays they believe that it is better to assist people with mental health issues in the community. I don't know whether that has failed or not. Wain died at the hospital in 1939.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy
Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy in the Louis Wain film. Image: Album/Alamy.

But to get back to Louis Wain and Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch has said that people should be more sensitive to outsiders and oddballs in society. It seems that he has assessed Louis Wain as an oddball after studying him so that he could play him accurately. And if this is true, Cumberbatch is clearly a sensitive and decent person. I would certainly agree with his sentiments.

Society tends to reject outsiders. I think it goes back to an ancient tribal instinct. Anybody who is different is dangerous. If they are dangerous, they should be shunned. It's a rather crude mental process but that's my assessment. Although Louis Wain was very popular. H G Wells, observed that Louis Wain "invented a cat style, a cat society, a whole cat world. English cats that do not look and live like Louis Wain cats are ashamed of themselves."

The film about Louis Wain is called The Electrical Life of Louis Wain. I believe that it is to be released quite soon. I wonder if Cumberbatch decided to take part because he wanted to support outsiders.

Louis Wain was prolific artist. He had a strict upbringing in a Victorian family and has been described as a sickly child with a harelip. Dr. Desmond Morris says that his upbringing led him to become rebellious in later life which took the "form of a sentimental, infantile sense of humour". This led to his "cloyingly sweet pictures". But it was this that gave them their strength and attractiveness. Dr. Desmond Morris says that in his drawings he was able to "unleash his own, hitherto suppressed childhood".

Louis Wain designed the badge of the National Cat Club and he was invited to become its second President. He was probably the most famous feline Illustrator of all time.

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