The Passions of Richard Dadd: Exhibition Opens 12 Jan

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.


Exhibition details:

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


3 Responses to “The Passions of Richard Dadd: Exhibition Opens 12 Jan”

  1. 1 Michelle Kopczyk January 14, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Unfortunately, I will miss this exhibition by a hair. I like Dadd’s work a lot. By serendipity I saw one of his pieces (with the painted bat border) in the Louvre’s tiny English artist section.

  2. 2 mark de novellis June 7, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Richard Dadd at Orleans House Gallery

    This exhibition explores the life and work of one of the most fascinating Victorian visionaries – Richard Dadd (1817-1886).

    Works from the Bethlem Art and History Collections Trust, West London Mental Health NHS Trust and private collections are brought together to chart Dadd’s early career, travels to Europe and the Middle East, mental illness and work created while at Bethlem and Broadmoor Hospitals.

    Dr. Nicholas Tromans author of Richard Dadd: The Artist and the Asylum published this July states:

    “Richard Dadd was one of the great Victorian painters, but spent his career in psychiatric hospitals, or as they were then known, lunatic asylums. An artist of extraordinary imagination from a young age, he was a specialist in fairy subjects before a tour of the Middle East triggered the onset of a mental illness that led him to kill his father. At Bethlem Hospital and then at Broadmoor, Dadd continued to work as an artist, creating haunting images combining bold imaginative leaps with the most delicate of miniaturist’s techniques. His art today presents both a beautiful mystery and a fascinating case study in the history of psychiatry.”

    To complement the exhibition, young people with disabilities who attend the Orleans House Gallery’s regular Octagon group have worked with artist Ashley Davies to create a collaborative work inspired by Dadd’s famous fairy paintings. This project has been generously supported by the Double O Charity.

    Exhibition runs from 28 May – 2 October 2011
    Orleans House Gallery, Riverside, Twickenham, TWE1 3DJ

    Free admission
    Gallery open Tuesdays- Saturdays 1.00-5.30pm, Sundays 2.00-5,30pm
    Tel: 020 8831 6000

  3. 3 Mark De Novellis April 24, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    The exhibition was very well received and was featured in Time Out. We also had a talk by Nicholas Tromans to tie in with the publication of his new book on Dadd.

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