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The Art of Bedlam: Richard Dadd

June 16, 2015 – November 1, 2015

Watts Gallery, Down Lane, Compton, Guildford, Surrey, GU3 1DQ, United Kingdom

This is the first major exhibition of the doomed British painter Richard Dadd (1817–86) to be staged in Britain in more than 40 years. A contemporary of GF Watts, Dadd embarked on a 10-month journey across Europe to the Ottoman lands of the Orient in 1842, after which he went mad, finally stabbing his father to death, believing himself guided by ancient Egyptian deities.

Dadd spent the last 40 years of his life in mental institutions – first in Bethlem Hospital and then the new Broadmoor hospital for the criminally insane. And it is there where Dadd’s wonderfully original art thrived. Using the many drawings he had made while touring the Middle East in 1842, and always referring back to his beloved Shakespeare, Dadd’s minutely executed paintings and watercolours emerged, almost miraculously, from a place associated – traditionally and perhaps unfairly – only with misery.

This exhibition tells Dadd’s extraordinary story of genius, psychosis and eventual philosophical resignation to his fate. It brings together some of the artist’s most brilliant works, including his masterpiece, ‘The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke’, on loan from the Tate. Other highlights include Dadd’s series of Illustrations of the Passions, his own protracted interpretation – witty, strange and touching in turn – of the causes of insanity.

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