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Consulting the Collection: Bethlem Artists Past and Present

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John Exell - City of Towers (2010)

For over 150 years the Bethlem Hospital has collected art by its patients. The current exhibition at the Bethlem Gallery, which opened yesterday, 23 June, provides a showcase for the inspirational talents of service user artists. Eight artists delved into the Museum's impressive archive in search of inspiring artwork and curiosities, responding to these exhibits in their own work. Past and present works are exhibited together in this exhibition, allowing artists to take us on a guided tour of their forerunners, offering us the visual delights of their creative consultation.

This unique perspective links mental health history to our present day lives - at any time, one in six people are affected by a mental health problem. The exhibition includes works by famous Bethlem patients of the past such as Richard Dadd (1817 - 1886), who spent twenty years in nineteenth century Bethlem, and Louis Wain (1860 - 1939), whose anthropomorphised cat paintings have been popular for over 100 years. Although these artists are well remembered, their work forms but a small proportion of the sizeable Bethlem art collection celebrated by the exhibition.

Exhibition includes artwork by David Beales, Stephanie Bates, Richard Dadd, John Exell, Jane Fradgley, Henry Hering, Imma Maddox, Sue Morgan, Marion Patrick, Cynthia Pell, Max Reeves, Maureen Scott, Julian Trevelyan, Louis Wain, and Scottie Wilson.

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