You are invited to the The Bethlem Gallery’s annual open exhibition, now in its third year, showcasing the work of artists from South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. A treasure trove of desirable paintings, prints, drawings, ceramics, photographs, textiles, and sculpture made by over 40 artists will be on show in the gallery throughout December. There’s something for everyone with a selection of art, gifts, cards and mince pies! Original artwork will be available at truly affordable prices, from £5 – £150, and perfect for a credit crunch Christmas.
The Bethlem Gallery was set up in 1997 to support and promote the talents of artists in South London who have been marginalised due to mental health problems. The gallery provides a professional platform for artists to show and sell work, equipping people with the experience, skills and support to exhibit within the wider art world. In recent years there has been an increase in public interest to exhibit and collect work by artists who exist outside of the mainstream art world. The Bethlem Gallery artists represent an inspiring section of this creative community, and this much loved annual exhibition celebrates the richness and diversity of their talents.
Opening 1st December, 3 – 6pm, all welcome.
Exhibition continues 2nd – 23rd December
Wednesday – Friday 11am – 6pm
Gallery and Museum open Saturday 4th December, 11am – 6pm
Free Entry – All Welcome!
Previously in this blog, we commented on the prevalence of delusions concerning Jack the Ripper expressed by late nineteenth century Bethlem patients. Here, we continue the story of Louis Box, admitted in 1891.
On examination by the medical officers the day after admission, Box “says that he does not think he is ‘Jack the Ripper’ now and that he was mistaken last night. The fact of it is, it is evident that everybody thinks he is Jack the Ripper, people sniff as he passes them in the street in a meaning manner, they also make sarcastic remarks about him saying ‘he appears pretty happy this morning’, ‘there he goes’ etc. Worse than this, detectives are on his back and conspire to annoy him into confessing. Lately he went to what he thought was a boarding house but what turned out to be some house in the pay of the police. The house was in the care of a Frenchman who turned out to be Charcot [the French neurologist well known for his experimental research into hysteria through hypnosis]. He knows he was Charcot as he heard him remark as he was going upstairs that he (Box) had found out who he was. In this house he was subjected to every kind of machination with a view of making him confess. Wires were in his bed and he received shocks; there were telephones in the room and a false back to the cupboard. He heard them discussing all his previous life. They used to imitate the falling of drops of blood and then watch the effect on him. They used to flash lights before him and shew him indecent pictures at all times discerning the effect on him. It is not improbable that Charcot hypnotised him to see if he had homicidal tendencies.”
It was not just the mass media and the public who expounded on the Ripper case: psychiatrists, including Bethlem’s George Savage, published in national and specialist papers. Box’s words incorporate many of these medical interests: research into the “criminal personality” and the “born criminal”, homicidal tendencies, and psychopathia sexualis; the use of hypnosis; the wide fame of Charcot, and physiological and psychological investigation and experimentation. It is hard not to feel sympathy for Box’s declaration that: “He gets so annoyed by these contrivances and by public opinion in the case that although he knows he has not performed any murders consciously, he thinks he may have unconsciously.” The unconscious mind was, after all, just what many of these investigative methods aimed to uncover.
Published November 17, 2010
Tags: Allan Beveridge, art, art and mental health, art and mental illness, art therapy, Bethlem Hospital art collection, Christianity, Creation and Fall, environment, Genesis, In the Frame, modernity, religion, service user art
This month the Archivist has chosen to highlight My Thoughts, My Dreams, My Fears, painted by Allan Beveridge as a sequel to an earlier work entitled Me, Myself, I in order to depict the consequences of what the artist calls “the rush for profits and pleasures that seem to characterise humanity”.
The exclamations at the foot of the picture are clear enough pointers – as if any were needed – to the Creation and Fall narrative of the Book of Genesis, a rich and enduring source for artistic reflection. The current fashion is for this narrative in particular (containing as it does the concept of human ‘dominion’ over the land) and Christian tradition in general to be blamed for laying the foundations for human degradation of the earth. However, recent scholarship suggests more plausibly, and less comfortably, that it is the technological project of Western modernity rather than the religious worldview of pre-modernity that has brought us within sight of environmental catastrophe (see Richard Bauckham’s God and the Crisis of Freedom, 2002 and Bible and Ecology, 2010); and such appears to be Beveridge’s reading.
While My Thoughts, My Dreams, My Fears contains some visual references which are autobiographical, as a sequel to Me, Myself, I it illustrates a clear shift in preoccupation outward from the life of the mind of the artist to a (dystopian) vision of a shared future. Both perspectives have a necessary place in human subjectivity – in this respect these two paintings form a ready pair – and who can say which is the more pressing?
Published November 14, 2010
Tags: archives, Benjamin Rush, history, history of madness, history of psychiatry, Philadelphia, photography, psychiatric photography, S. Weir Mitchell, Thomas Kirkbride, Visits elsewhere
Our Archivist has been awarded short-term travel grants from the Francis
Clark Wood Institute for the History of Medicine at The College of
Physicians of Philadelphia and the
Committee for Professional and International Affairs of the Archives and
Records Association (UK and
Ireland) to enable research into the photographic representation of
psychiatric patients using the archival resources of the College’s
There should be ample scope for this research in the city of Benjamin
Rush, Thomas Kirkbride and Silas Weir Mitchell; and if only the Dorothea
Dix Library and Museum (opened as a reading room for the female
patients of Pennsylvania’s Harrisburg State Hospital, which Dix and
Kirkbride co-founded in 1851) had not closed in 2006, it would have been
the next stop on our Archivist’s itinerary. As matters stand, hopefully
there will be enough time for a ‘Letter from America’ to be written for
publication on this blog in due course.
Photo courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
“These are the times of Jack the Ripper.”
Elizabeth Bishop (admitted to Bethlem June 1895)
The Whitechapel murders of 1888 are of particular interest in relation to what responses tell us about late Victorian society. Popularly considered the first “modern” serial killer, mass media coverage of the Ripper case ensured that discussions of poverty, crime and “sexual danger” permeated Victorian society; from autumn 1888, the delusions of many Bethlem patients centred around the “Whitechapel murders.” What is particularly clear in the Bethlem casebooks is the way in which the Ripper “sensation” affected men and women differently. Male patients worried that they were suspected of being involved in the crimes, or even that they were accused of being “Jack the Ripper” himself, while female patients feared mutilation, regularly identifying themselves with the prostitute victims.
This divide reflects that indicated in histories like Judith Walkowitz’s City of Dreadful Delight. The Bethlem casebooks also validate Walkowitz’s claims that the sexual fears raised by the murders continued well after the case itself: 1888 and 1889 may see a proliferation of Ripper delusions at Bethlem, but they continued at least until the end of the century, and possibly beyond. The articulate story of one patient in particular deserves further attention. Louis Box, a London writer, was 25 when he was admitted to Bethlem suffering from mania. Although Box, like other male patients, identified with the murderer rather than the victims, he also claimed that he had “dressed as a woman and so committed the murders in Whitechapel,” an interesting subversion of gender roles.
Admission Register, showing Louis Box’s admission to Bethlem. To view more nineteenth century admission registers, visit our online archive.