A new exhibition opens next week at the Bethlem Gallery, investigating the range of emotional expressions exhibited by Victorian artist and former patient Richard Dadd. These rarely exhibited paintings cover expressions ranging from agony to joy and hatred to love – passions often suppressed by Victorian society.
Born in 1817, Richard Dadd was a promising young artist with the potential to become a leading talent in the early Victorian art world. Sadly he is now better known for the murder of his father in 1843 and the years he subsequently spent in the Bethlem and Broadmoor Hospitals.
Dadd showed early promise upon entering the Royal Academy Schools and exhibiting his first works in 1837. His burgeoning reputation led him to being employed by Sir Thomas Phillips on his grand tour of Europe, the Middle East and Egypt. Unfortunately it was during this ten month journey that Dadd started to show signs of severe mental distress and by the time he reached home he was suffering from paranoid delusions. On 28 August 1843 he stabbed his father to death in Cobham Park, near Rochester in Kent, believing him to be the devil in disguise. It was this act that led to Dadd spending the rest of his life in confinement.
Whilst in hospital Dadd was encouraged by his doctors to continue painting. The works completed during his time at Bethlem reveal a mind actively exploring a world of fantasy. His most famous works include The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke now on display at Tate Britain, and Contradiction: Oberon and Titania, owned by Andrew Lloyd-Webber and last on public display in 2003 at the Royal Academy. Dadd also explored a darker side of human experience, in his Sketches to Illustrate the Passions, that depict a wide range of emotions, many of which could be associated with mental distress.
The exhibition opens on Wednesday 12 January, from 3 – 6pm. All are welcome at the opening event, and the exhibition continues until 28th January, opening Wednesday – Saturday, 11am – 4pm. The Museum will also be open on these dates, displaying a complementary exhibition of earlier Dadd works, as well as its permanent collection.
Opening Event: 12 January, 3 – 6 pm
Exhibition continues: 13th – 28th January
Opening times: Wednesday – Saturday 11am – 4pm
Museum also open Saturday 15th and 22nd January 11am – 4pm
Address: The Bethlem Gallery, Bethlem Royal Hospital, Monks Orchard Road, Beckenham, BR3 3BX
Travel: Nearest British Rail Eden Park / East Croydon