Dadd for Dad’s Day

19 Jun
Richard Dadd, ”Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke”. 1855–64. Oil on canvas. 54 x 39.5 cm. Tate Gallery, London. [source]

Richard Dadd (1817 – 1886)

The English Painter Richard Dadd actually murdered his own father, which perhaps makes this post a little inappropriate for Father’s Day. Let’s just disregard that fact…

Historians believe that Dadd was a paranoid schizophrenic, but perhaps because Dadd spent two decades of his life in a mental institution he continued to paint in spite of his illness.

Portrait of British painter Richard Dadd, painting “Contradiction: Oberon and Titania.”
Photograph by Henry Hering (ca. 1856). [source]

Dadd studied at the Royal Academy of the Arts in London. Then in 1842, he accompanied Sir Thomas Phillips, the former mayor of Newport, on his travels around the Middle East and Africa as his appointed draftsman. The next year at the age of twenty-six, Dadd was found mentally unfit. Retreating to the countryside of Cobham, Kent, Dadd knifed his father to death in August of 1843 because he believed him to be the devil incarnate.

Following the death of his father, Dadd was committed to the Bethlem psychiatric hospital. Here, he continued to work on his obsessive paintings such as the “Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke” (above). From 1855 to 1864, Dadd slaved over the most miniscule details–the microscopic flecks of light on each pebble and the three-dimensional noodling of individual petals on the daisies. Nine years! Even after all that time, Dadd never considered this painting to be a completed work.

This painting, which inspired the song below by Queen, lives in the Tate Gallery, London.


2 Responses to “Dadd for Dad’s Day”

  1. Late June 24, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

    I like this type of crazily overcomplicated stuff. I had to find a higher resolution picture to really peek at the details. What a nut though. Luckily his serial killer career was cut short.

    • hellosinki June 24, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

      Yeah, you don’t really get a sense of just how crazy this painting is until you see some details, or see the work in person. What I would give to go see this at the Tate!

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