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Richard Dadd ( 1817 - 1886 )  Category ( Painters ) [suggest a correction]

Richard DaddRichard Dadd was a nineteenth-century English painter who specialized in ethereal, supernatural, and Orientalist-style subjects. He was particularly known for an exquisite attention to detail, and is perhaps best remembered for his paintings of fairies. All these subjects were of great interest during the Victorian period, and Dadd's work was popular across the classes of British and American society. His most famous works were actually created when he was an inmate in a psychiatric hospital.

Dadd was born in Kent, England. His father was a chemist, though he recognized his son's artistic talent at an early age and encouraged the child by enrolling him in art lessons. At age twenty he was admitted to the Royal Academy, where he met artists Henry O'Neil, William Powell, Augustus Egg, and others. Together they founded a society known as The Clique. Most of his colleagues considered Dadd the most talented among them. When he was twenty-five, Sir Thomas Phillips invited Dadd to join him on a world-traveling adventure, where Dadd was expected to sketch and paint the exotic locales discovered in Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, and Egypt. The journey was physically and emotionally demanding and draining, particularly their passage from Jerusalem to Jordan, where they spent a great deal of time in the wilderness. By the time the group boarded a boat to travel up the Nile, the effects of his travel experiences were evident in Dadd's behavior. He became delusional and violent, at times insisting that he was under the control of the Egyptian god Osiris. By 1843 he received the diagnosis of insanity, and went back to his parents in Kent to recuperate. It was a disastrous move. Later in the same year Dadd murdered his father, believing him to be the Devil. He then fled to France, but on his way he tried to murder another person with a razor. He was arrested and made a full confession to police. He was then returned to England, where he was committed to a psychiatric hospital, where he was permitted to continue painting.

Dadd's most celebrated painting, "The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke," was executed while he was in the mental hospital. Sadly, Dadd never recovered from his mental illness, which some physicians today suggest might be diagnosed as either schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder. Apparently several members of his family suffered from similar afflictions. Dadd continued to paint for the remainder of his life, though he was rarely visited by friends and family. He died at Broadmoor, outside London, in January 1866. The stated cause of death was "extensive disease of the lungs."

Image: Richard Dadd. The painting he is working on is "Contradiction: Oberon and Titania" (1854/1858).

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