Nicholas Tromans at the Bethlem Museum

Dr Nicholas Tromans (author of Richard Dadd: The Artist and the Asylum) visited the museum on Saturday 11 February to formally open the exhibition ‘Richard Dadd: An Artist Abroad’. Tromans (pictured below) gave a short talk concentrating on Dadd’s pre-Bethlem art, the topic of the exhibition, and detailing his travels between July 1842 and May 1843. He commented on Dadd’s remarkable self-assurance as a young artist abroad, considerably younger than other artists in the contemporary Orientalist movement. Dadd’s travels were financed by a gentleman tourist, Sir Thomas Phillips, with whom he travelled, making drawings of all the places they visited. As Tromans described it in his recent book, Richard Dadd: The Artist and the Asylum:

The world through which Phillips and Dadd travelled between July 1842 and May 1843 was that of the traditional grand tour of Italy and Greece, now extended thanks to steam travel into the Ottoman world of Turkey, Egypt and ‘Syria’ (the modern-day Arab countries west of Iraq.1

The whistle-stop tour apparently alternately elated and frustrated Dadd: fascinated by the exotic places he witnessed, but not having time to draw them properly. Only two of Dadd’s sketchbooks from the time survive, one in our collections. Those who missed the fascinating talk given by Dr Tromans, or who want to hear more about Richard Dadd and his work, in particular additional information about his period at Bethlem, can catch him on You Tube.

The exhibition on Dadd at the Museum – An Artist Abroad – runs until 27 April, with a further talk by the curator on Saturday 10 March. See our website for details.

1 Tromans, N. Richard Dadd: The Artist and the Asylum, London: Tate Publishing (2011), p. 37

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