Richard Dadd is recognised as one of the most individual of English painters. The story of his sad life is now quite familiar: he was born in Chatham in Kent. After a routine art training at the Royal Academy Schools he entered upon his career as an artist in the circle of painters known as The Clique. In the years 1842-43 he travelled to the Middle East and Greece with Sir Thomas Phillips. On his return from this trip he suffered a bout of insanity in the course of which he murdered his father. For the rest of his life Dadd was confined in the asylums of Bethlem and Broadmoor, in which latter place he died in 1887.

Dadd's painting progresses in the course of his career from a conventional style derived from his senior contemporary Daniel Maclise to a manner of painting of frenzied invention and obsessive and minutely-observed detail, which, fascinating and beautiful as it is, must be seen in the context of Dadd's mania. The two masterpieces of this last phase, which are amongst the most compelling works of art of any age, are Contradiction: Oberon and Titania (private collection, U.S.A.) and The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke (Tate Gallery, London).



Allderidge, Patricia. The Late Richard Dadd. London: Tate Gallery, 1974-5.

Newall, Christopher. A Celebration of British and European Painting of the 19th and 20th Centuries. London: Peter Nahum, nd [1999?]. Pp. 10-12.

Tromans, Nicholas. Richard Dadd: The Artist and the Asylum. London: Tate Publishing, 2011. [Review by Laurent Bury].

Last modified 27 June 2020