Richard Dadd

Richard Dadd, 1817 to 1886, was an English painter of the Victorian era, noted for his depictions of fairies and other supernatural subjects, Orientalist scenes, and enigmatic genre scenes, rendered with obsessively minuscule detail. Most of the works for which he is best known were created while he was a patient in a psychiatric hospital. Among his best-known early works are the illustrations he produced for The Book of British Ballads in 1842, and a frontispiece he designed for The Kentish Coronal in 1840. In July 1842, Sir Thomas Phillips, the former mayor of Newport, chose Dadd to accompany him as his draftsman on an expedition through Europe to Greece, Turkey, Southern Syria and finally Egypt. In November of that year they spent a gruelling two weeks in Southern Syria, passing from Jerusalem to Jordan and returning across the Engaddi wilderness. Toward the end of December, while traveling up the Nile by boat, Dadd underwent a dramatic personality change, becoming delusional, increasingly violent, and believing himself to be under the influence of the Egyptian god Osiris. His condition was initially thought to be sunstroke. On his return in the spring of 1843, he was diagnosed to be of unsound mind and was taken by his family to recuperate in the countryside village of Cobham, Kent. In August of that year, having become convinced that his father was the Devil in disguise, Dadd killed him with a knife and fled to France. En route to Paris, Dadd attempted to kill another tourist with a razor but was overpowered and arrested by police. Dadd confessed to killing his father and was returned to England, where he was committed to the criminal department of Bethlem psychiatric hospital (also known as Bedlam). Here and subsequently at the newly-created Broadmoor Hospital, Dadd was cared for (and encouraged to continue painting) in an enlightened manner by Drs William Wood, William Orange and Sir W. Charles Hood. Dadd probably suffered from a form of paranoid schizophrenia. Two of his siblings were similarly afflicted, while a third had "a private attendant" for unknown reasons.In 1987 a long-lost watercolour by Dadd, The Artist's Halt in the Desert, was discovered by Peter Nahum on the BBC TV programme Antiques Roadshow. Made while the artist was incarcerated, it is based on sketches made during his tour of the Middle East, and shows his party encamped by the Dead Sea, with Dadd at the far right. It was later sold for £100,000 to the British Museum but you can get a beautiful reproduction here at World of Art for a lot less money.
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