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Richard Dadd: An Artist Abroad Opens This Week

A new exhibition on Richard Dadd, focusing on his early work and career, opens this week in the Bethlem Royal Hospital Archives & Museum. On Saturday 11 February, Nicholas Tromans (author of Richard Dadd: The Artist and the Asylum, available in the Museum shop) will officially open the exhibition with a talk and book signing. The exhibition focuses on Dadd’s early work, often eclipsed by his later period in Bethlem and Broadmoor Hospitals during which time he painted some of his most famous works. Yet, prior to this, Dadd had already established a reputation as an artist.

Richard Dadd began to exhibit his work in 1837, at the age of twenty, and soon began to make a reputation. He was considered to be one of the most promising young artists of his generation. At the age of twenty-five he was employed to travel with Sir Thomas Phillips through Europe and the Middle East, and make drawings of the places they visited. The Bethlem Art Collection contains paintings, sketchbooks and letters from this period of Dadd’s life, and the exhibition (running until 27 April 2012) will focus on this ten month period of Dadd’s life, towards the end of which the artist developed symptoms of severe mental disturbance, resulting in his hospitalisation in 1843.

Tromans has carried out extensive research on Dadd’s life, as well as his art. Indeed, his research on Dadd’s later paintings suggests that the travels of 1842-3 remained a strong influence on the artist in later life. Despite being best known for his fairy paintings (the most famous of which, The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke (1855-64) was painted at Bethlem), after his transfer to the newly-opened Broadmoor Hospital in 1864, Tromans indicates that Dadd almost entirely left behind his fairy iconography, instead focusing on the landscapes he had travelled through with Phillips. The topic of this exhibition is therefore a pivotal period in Dadd’s life.

Exhibition details:

Exhibition open: 2nd February – 27th April

Opening Event: 11 February, 2pm (Museum open 11am – 5pm)

Opening times: Monday – Friday, 9.30am – 4.30pm & Saturdays 11 February, 10 March & 14 April, 11am – 5pm