Posts Tagged 'Richard Dadd'

Women and the Mind Doctors: Upcoming exhibitions

Two exciting exhibitions open early next month, one of which features a number of items from the Bethlem Collection. The Freud Museum’s Mad, Bad and Sad: Women and the Mind Doctors, runs from 10 October until 2 February 2014. A mix of historical objects and contemporary art  highlights the experience of women and their relationships to those who confined, cared for and listened to them.  The exhibition also shows how women today conduct their own explorations of mind and imagination in challenging works of art. Items from Bethlem include ECT machines, strong clothing and restraints and Richard Dadd’s A Sketch for an Idea of Crazy Jane. Bethlem Gallery artist Jane Fradgley will also have several artworks on display, from her recent show at the Institute of Psychiatry.

Meanwhile, a major retrospective exhibition devoted to another creative woman opens this weekend: Madge Gill: Medium & Visionary runs from 5 October 2013 until 26 January 2014 at Orleans House Gallery, Twickenham. With no training and no aspirations to fame, Madge Gill produced thousands of ink drawings during her lifetime. Her work remains an enigma: is it true she was inspired by an ethereal spirit guide? Was she genuinely in touch with ‘the beyond’, or was art-making a form of self therapy?

Featuring over 100 original artworks – including the ten metre calico The Crucifixion of the Soul, which has not been on display in the UK since 1979, and contextual photographs and documents, this exhibition is the first of its kind. Madge Gill was championed and collected by Jean Dubuffet, who coined the term ‘art brut’ (raw art), the precursor to the term ‘Outsider Art’. Those interested in Outsider Art might also want to visit an exhibition at St Pancras Hospital, which is on until 28 November. Epiphanies! Secrets of Outsider Art showcases up to twenty artists, from London, Australia and the USA.

Richard Dadd - Sketch for an Idea of Crazy Jane

Richard Dadd – Sketch for an Idea of Crazy Jane


In the Frame for September 2013

In the Frame goes on holiday once again, as our Education Officer takes a trip to Edinburgh. She writes:

I have to confess to not being a particular fan of Richard Dadd, to not really ‘getting it’, but I have always liked his portrait of Alexander Morison, visiting physician to Bethlem Hospital where Dadd was a patient following the murder of his father. Seeing the picture for the first time in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, in a room where it was surrounded by very traditional portraits of the great and the good, was transformative. Dadd’s painting looked startlingly modern and vibrant; the flashes of red, warm yellows and lush greens providing a foil for the starker figure of Morison himself, upright in contrast to the twisted trees, the surface less polished, lending more energy and immediacy. It appeared, perhaps helped also by its more modest scale, more human and less pompous than some of its neighbours.

Dadd depicts the Morison family house at Newhaven, with the Firth of Forth gleaming dully behind it, low hills beyond, open grass and trees in front. There is much to take our eye: the stately progress of the ships on the right, the red-tiled roof of the small building to the left and the animated fishwives in their traditional costumes on the strand, looking not quite to scale.

It is Morison himself though who draws our attention, standing just to the right of centre. He holds his top hat in one hand and could almost be gesturing to the viewer. In his other hand he holds a white cloth, a handkerchief and a book. He is formally dressed as we might expect of someone of his status; the white cravat fixed with a pin bright against the black of the rest of his clothing. His open coat reveals the waistcoat and adds a sense of movement to an otherwise static figure; likewise the wispy white hair standing up around his head like a white halo. The face is that of a man nearing the end of a long career in a potentially difficult profession. It appears quite lined and worn but the eyes hold our gaze. It would be difficult to walk straight past.

Although, as his patient, Dadd would have seen Morison in person, the remainder of the scene relies on imagination and secondary sources. Family members provided information and sketches of the area around Newhaven and the fishwives themselves may have been inspired or copied from earlier photographs by Hill and Adamson.1 All the more remarkable then that this portrait should be so unified and so arresting.

[1] The painter David Hill and the engineer Robert Adamson set up Scotland’s first photographic studio in 1843. 2623

Art in the Asylum: Upcoming Events

September sees the opening of several events that may be of interest to our readers, some of which include items from the Bethlem Collection. First off, an exhibition opens today at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine by the Centre for Global Mental Health: One in Four: Experience and Action. The exhibition is open daily between 10 and 4, and brings together items offering unique perspectives on the experience of living with mental ill-health, as well as the work of the Centre. Free accompanying events include evening film screenings, lectures and discussions, such as the contribution of the Patient Voices Programme to improved mental health care in Manchester on 8 October and the role of service user involvement in research and advocacy on October 10. The exhibition itself runs until 1 January 2014.

Later in the week, Art in the Asylum: Creativity and the Evolution of Psychiatry opens at the Djanogly Art Gallery in Nottingham. Exploring the role of art in mental health care and treatment from 1800 to the 1970s, the exhibition incorporates art from national and international archives, including the Bethlem collection and the Adamson Collection. The display aims to provide a historical overview of the diagnostic and therapeutic use of patient artwork, as well as its wider recognition through associations with Art Brut and so-called Outsider Art. Free lectures and tours run alongside the exhibition, which is open daily until 3 November. These include an evening talk on the life and legacy of Edward Adamson on 11 September, a lecture by Maureen Park on the nineteenth-century collection put together by W.A.F. Browne at the Crichton Royal Institution on 18 September, and Nicholas Tromans on Richard Dadd on October 16th.

Finally, in October, the UCL Centre for the History of Psychological Disciplines will host a three-day conference on the history of psychotherapeutics, from moral treatment to psychological therapies. The conference programme is soon to be announced, at

Art Everywhere: Richard Dadd on the tube

Last week, a hot and sweaty tube journey to the South Kensington museums was much improved by an unexpected sighting of Richard Dadd halfway up the escalators! Dadd’s The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke (painted by the artist while at Bethlem) is held in the collection at the Tate Britain, and is one of 57 masterpieces decorating billboards and bus stops around the UK. Described as a ‘Very Very Big Art Show’, Art Everywhere has seen 22,000 poster sites transformed into a country-wide exhibition for two weeks over the summer.

Have your journeys to work been improved by the art on display in unexpected locations? What artworks have you particularly enjoyed seeing? And which would you like to see? Art Everywhere runs until 25 August, so if you haven’t spotted any artworks yet keep your eyes peeled! There’s also a map of poster sites on the Art Everywhere website. We’re certainly hoping at least some of the billboard owners will be slow to take the images down!

Richard Dadd - The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke

Just Visiting: Fukuzawa Yukichi

Fukuzawa Yukichi (1835-1901) is well-known within Japan as an author, political theorist, and moderniser, the founder of Keio University and, in a manner of speaking, one of the architects of the modern nation. He was an advocate of political and cultural engagement with the West, and some account of his travels to Europe and the United States is available in English translation in The Autobiography of Fukuzawa Yukichi, translated by Eiichi Kiyooka (Tokyo, 1981). His diaries, however, remain untranslated, and in them there is an account of a visit made to Bethlem Hospital in 1862 – a fact that may be verified from Bethlem’s visitors’ book, into which Fukuzawa wrote. Fukuzawa was by no means the only personage from abroad to visit the Hospital – nineteenth century psychiatrists maintained a lively cultural and intellectual exchange across national borders – but his Western hosts no doubt saw him as one of their more exotic guests. His own account of the visit, written on 20 May 1862, breathes a liberal, enquiring spirit, and provides another window onto mid-Victorian Hospital life.

“This lunatic asylum is a hospital that accommodates and treats lunatic people. It provides a single room for each patient. Patients are encouraged to come out of their rooms during the daytime. I saw patients who took walks through the hospital, went out into the garden to pick flowers, sang and danced on the rooftop, played ball, drew pictures, and enjoyed music. Patients can amuse themselves according to their inclination. The inside of the hospital is kept especially clean. Bird cages and pot plants are put in place so that patients can soothe their minds.”

Fukuzawa then turned his attention to Bethlem’s State Criminal Lunatic Asylum, within which those who (like Edward Oxford) had been tried for but acquitted of serious crimes ‘by reason of insanity’ were held until Her Majesty’s further Pleasure be known.

“The hospital not only treats patients who go mad but also detains for life people who have committed arson or attempted murder due to their madness. I saw three inmates today. One tried to kill the Queen, one killed his father, and another woman killed her three children.”

The would-be regicide was doubtless Edward Oxford himself, and the parricide Richard Dadd. A little over two years after Fukuzawa’s visit, both men – indeed all the male inhabitants of the State Criminal Lunatic Asylum – were relocated to the newly-built Broadmoor Hospital. Three years after that, Oxford proved an exception to the life detention rule, as related by Fukuzawa, by obtaining a Royal pardon. But that, as they say, is another story – one, incidentally, that is told by Paul Murphy in a book just published by Pegasus entitled Shooting Victoria.

Fukuzawa Yukichi

Fukuzawa Yukichi in Paris, 1862

Latest News on Richard Dadd

Last month we alerted blog readers to the mini-exhibition of works by Dadd at the Archives & Museum here at Bethlem, and to a talk given by author Nicholas Tromans at its opening. Dadd aficionados will be interested to learn that Nicholas has just published an article on Dadd in the online journal The Public Domain Review; and that Bethlem’s Dadd exhibition has been extended to Saturday 5 May (when the Archives & Museum and the Bethlem Gallery will be open from 11am to 5pm).

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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