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Video Inside Broadmoor! Richard Dadd: Murderer, Fairy Artist, Inmate

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  • #31

    Like myself, Dadd loved Shakespeare.

    Many of Dadd's works show strong Shakespearean influences, and
    the play 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' directly inspired a number of his most famous paintings.

    This one is simply titled 'Puck'


    • #32
      Titania and Oberon in Dadd's Art

      Here are two paintings of Titania and Oberon, the Fairy Queen and King.

      The first is called Contradiction: Titania and Oberon and was painted 1854-58. (This is the round canvas Dadd is working on in his photo)

      The second was painted in 1841 and is titled Titania Sleeping. Enlarge it to see the amazing detail... Don't you just love the live 'bat cave'?


      • #33
        Sigmar Polke on Dadd

        I found an excellent page on Dadd at The Tate Online.
        It's written by artist Sigmar Polke.

        What's funny is that he actually mentions the 15th C. work of Hieronymous Bosch as I did earlier... but Polke only refers to a similarity in the way that Bosch and Dadd both entirely cover their canvases with figures.

        Not a word about the hyper-realism, obsessive detail, sensory overload and bizarre transformations in both Bosch & Dadd that tend to induce the scary "Uh-oh... Was there hallucinogenic ergot in the bread I just ate?"-effect when viewing their work.

        At least it does for me... I first encountered the artwork of Bosch as a kid & though it fascinates me, it also scares me unlike anything else I've ever seen in my life... Can you imagine if the world really looked like that???

        Dadd's 'Fairy Feller' comes closest to Bosch in that regard I think. The first time I saw it and realized that I am the mouse having the mouse's eye-view, it really tripped me out!


        • #34
          Nut Perspective.

          I've read Mr. Polke's essay now. A little odd, his denial that there are any distortions or "exaggerated transformations". But then, it seems to me, he also has got the perspective wrong: "the Fairy Feller in the foreground, his axe poised on high, ready to chop a giant hazelnut in half." Clearly, there is no "giant hazelnut" in the picture ? The nuts are all, quite literally, fairly normal-sized nuts, and the fairies are all fairly normal-sized fairies. Any giants, surely, are all outside the picture.


          In a long poem, written about the time he finished it, the painter tells us that the fairies have gathered at the command of the white bearded man in the middle with a gold hat and club. They are watching the Fairy Feller in brown who is about to split open a nut with his axe to make a new carriage for the Fairy Queen, Mab. Her tiny figure can be seen riding in the old one across the brim of the bearded man's hat.* The idea comes from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

          "Queen Mab comes drawn with a team of little atomies, her wagoner a small grey coated gnat. Her chariot is an empty hazel shell."

          --Richard Dadd


          Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut...

          Then dreams he of another benefice:
          Sometime she driveth o'er a soldier's neck,
          And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,

          Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,
          Of healths five-fathom deep; and then anon
          Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,
          And being thus frighted swears a prayer or two
          And sleeps again. This is that very Mab
          That plaits the manes of horses in the night,
          And bakes the elflocks in foul sluttish hairs,
          Which once untangled, much misfortune bodes:
          This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
          That presses them and learns them first to bear,
          Making them women of good carriage:
          This is she—

          W. Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act I Scene IV.


          • #35
            The Cob & The Cobweb.

            Originally posted by Pilgrim View Post
            He also brought back, it seemed, the beginnings of the mental illness, probably schizophrenia or bipolar manic depression, which would eventually lead to the events that overshadow his fame as an artist. Friends were disturbed by his erratic behaviour, which his father ascribed (in public, at least) to sonstroke*. On one occasion, a friend found him covered in blood; Dadd had just cut out a birthmark, which he said was a mark put on him by the devil. Later in the year, he proposed to his father a trip to Cobham, in Surrey, during which, Dadd said, he would explain himself and his recent behaviour. As they walked through the park at night, Dadd attacked and killed his father with a razor he had purchased just before the trip. He fled to France, but was arrested at Fontainebleu after trying to kill a fellow passenger in a coach; he was subsequently brought back to England.

            Encyclopedia of the romantic era, 1760-1850, Volume 1: Richard Dadd
            (By Christopher John Murray).


            In Egypt, he started to exhibit symptoms of mental illness, complaining of 'nervous depression', which others blamed on sonstroke. Throughout the return journey, Dadd suffered increasingly from delusions that he was being pursued by spirits. In Rome he started to be taken over by irrational impulses that dominated the rest of his life. On his return, his actions became unpredictable and occasionally violent. He was now watchful and suspicious, obsessed with Egyptian mythology. Increasingly he believed that he was being persecuted by the devil's minions and that voices were influencing him in his own mission to rid the world of the devil. His landlady became afraid of his bizarre behaviour, although Dadd's father persistently claimed that there was nothing wrong with his sun despite the advice of Alexander Sutherland, physician at St. Luke's, who adviced that Dadd should be restrained. Shortly after Sutherland had been consulted, Dadd called on his father and suggested a walk in the country near Cobham to help him clear his mind.

            The history of Bethlem: Richard Dadd
            (By Jonathan Andrews).


            On the coast at Jaffa they boarded the steam-ship Hecate, where he wrote a long letter to William Powell Frith. The letter shows a bright, talented 25-year old, given to punning. A facility he never lost throughout his tragic life.

            A hazelnut is the nut of the hazel and is also known as a cobnut.


            COB, v.t.

            1. To strike [Prov. Eng.]

            2. To break into small pieces, as ore, so as to sort out its better portions.

            3. To punish by striking on the buttocks with a strap, a flat piece of wood, or the like.

            COB, n.

            1. The top or head; a covetous wretch; a foreign coin.

            4. A spider; perhaps from its shape; it being round like a head.

            10. A cobnut; as, Kentish cobs. See Cobnut.

            Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913 + 1828)


            Richard Dadd, The Attack of The Spider.

            HAM, Sax. ham, a house, is our modern word home, G.heim. It is used in hamlet, and in the names of places, as in Walt-ham, wood-house, walt, a wood, and ham, a house, [not Wal-tham, as it is often pronounced,] Bucking-ham, Notting-ham, Wrent-ham, Dur-ham, &c.

            Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1828)



            • #36
              Hi, Pilgrim, I had no idea that a hazlenut was also called a cobnut... thanks for pointing that out.

              Seeing as Dadd cut his father's throat in Cobham, I wonder if Dadd's choice
              of the hazlenut as the subject of the painting 'The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke',
              and the fact that the 'cobnut' is about to be cut with a sharp blade
              is in fact a veiled allusion to the murder of his own father?


              • #37
                Strike, punish, hazelnut, spider.

                Yes, I would most certainly think so; possibly an allusion to his father. That word, 'cob', seems so quite strikingly to be converging on the murderous act, as it means, quite literally, to strike, to punish, hazelnut, and spider.


                • #38
                  Alberto Giacommetti Sculpture: 'Woman With Her Throat Cut'

                  I just came across a very strange and topical artwork, so I thought I'd go ahead and post it here.

                  It's a 1932 Surrealist metal sculpture by Alberto Giacometti called
                  'Woman With Her Throat Cut'.

                  The 'woman' is in the form of a disemboweled insect or crustacean with a
                  nearly-severed head... I kid you not.



                  • #39
                    The Link Between Genius & Madness

                    This is an interesting paper which discusses the possible link between artistic creativity, genius, and madness-
                    'The Gift of Saturn: Creativity and Psychopathology'
                    by Antonio Preti, M.D.

                    Preti explores the theories of psychologist & criminologist Cesare Lombroso,
                    author of 'Man of Genius', and discusses modern studies of Schizophrenia & Bipolar Disorders in relation to highly creative individuals.



                    • #40
                      Documentary Video: Hieronymous Bosch

                      Here's a documentary about the life and work of the 15th C. artist Hieronymous Bosch.

                      "Hieronymous Bosch: The Delights of Hell"

                      Just in case you aren't familiar with his work, you might not want to watch it alone late at night... unless you really like hallucinogenic depictions of Plague, Apocalypse, Evil Toads, and very personal Living Hells.

                      (Hosted on, my favorite free online documentary site- you don't have to join anything to view.)



                      • #41
                        Dadd's Work "Hatred", etc, at Leamington Spa

                        Found an article describing a show of Dadd's artwork at the Leamington Spa.

                        Some of his lesser-known works are pictured in the article, including one from his series called 'The Passions'.

                        It's Dadd's illustration of 'Hatred' and shows a scene of murder: a man is holding up a sword that's literally dripping with blood as he stands over the body of the man he has just killed.



                        • #42
                          'The Passions: Raving Madness'

                          This is Dadd's work 'The Passions: Raving Madness'.
                          It's a grim picture in which the sufferer's torment, confusion and despair are evident.

                          Dadd was an inmate of Bethlem Royal Hospital at the time, so it was inspired both by Dadd's own personal experience of mental illness and by what he saw around him.

                          The chains on the man are both a reminder of the fact that until shortly before Dadd's day "madmen'' were frequently kept shackled and a metaphor for the captive human mind bound by the chains of mental illness.