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Richard Dadd Art for Sale at Auction

Painter, Illustrator, b. 1817 - d. 1887

(b Chatham, England, 1817; d Berkshire, England, 1886) English painter. Dadd enjoyed a brilliant early career, winning three silver medals at the Royal Academy Schools and achieving an effortless distinction among his artistic contemporaries. Beginning to exhibit in 1837, first at Suffolk Street then at the Royal Academy and the British Institution, he revealed a strong inclination towards imaginative painting, concentrating on fairy subjects and gaining a reputation as their leading exponent. In 1842 he was approached by Sir Thomas Phillips, a South Wales solicitor and hero of Chartist riots, to accompany him on a tour of the Middle East. He was recommended by David Roberts, and was expected not only to be a traveling companion, but also to record the architectural sights. The visual excitement and physical hardship of the ten-month Middle-Eastern tour precipitated a crisis. Dadd returned insane, and in August 1843 murdered his father at Cobham. Following the murder, he fled to France, where he attempted another murder and was arrested. Having been extradited to England, he appeared before magistrates at Rochester. His behavior left no doubt of his disturbed state of mind, and on 22 August 1844, almost a year to the day after killing his father, he was committed to Bethlem Hospital. Dadd remained in Bethlem for twenty years, moving in 1864 to the newly built Broadmoor in Berkshire. In 1852 Dr William Charles Hood was appointed as physician superintendent at Bethlem. He took a particular interest in Dadd, provided him with working materials, and encouraged him to work by acquiring works from him. Hood's kindness towards Dadd, and the practical assistance that he gave during the long years of incarceration, permitted some of the most remarkable works of art by any painter of the nineteenth century. A 1974 Tate exhibition rightly set out to show that Dadd was already, before insanity took over, an artist of rare perception, and that insanity should only be regarded as one of the many influences on his work. Two fairy paintings for which he is now best known “Fairy Feller's Master-stroke” and “Contradiction: Oberon and Titania” were completed in the asylum. (Credit: Christie’s, London, The Forbes Collection of Victorian Pictures and Works of Art, February 19, 2003, lot 228; Sotheby’s, London, Important British Drawings, Watercolours and Portrait Minitures, November 23, 2006, lot 248)

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