When former mayor. Nearing the end of

When I received the theme of networks I immediately
thought of the complex and vexing web of the human mind, particularly the
imagination and how it reacts to and conjures up fantastical images. For me
personally Fairy tales have always been an area of great intrigue and are
constantly floating around in my imagination. Mythology and Fairy tales have
been popular subjects in art for a vast number of years and have been utilised
by many different artists and explored in many different ways. Richard Dadd was
an extremely popular artist in the Victorian Era, who created vast and busy
Fairy paintings, a feast for the eyes of his audience. He was a most brilliant
artist, and his personal life was just as captivating as his art works. In this
essay I will carry out some research and exploration into Dadd’s life as well
as analysis of some of his works, comparing them to that of the contemporary
fairy tale illustrator Kate Cosgrove. Obviously these are two different artists
working in two very different times and appealing to two very different
audiences but, they are both ultimately responding to the same fantastical
theme. And so, I hope to draw a meaningful conclusion from how their varying
aims have affected how they approached the topic.

Richard Dadd is an English artist, born in Kent and
educated at King’s School
in Rochester
where his talent for drawing caught peoples attention at a very early age. He
later founded a group of English artists, referred to as “The Clique”, who shared
a view that art should be valued and judged by the public and not by its “conformity
to academic ideals” which placed a heavy weighting on fact, history and
tradition being portrayed in artwork. He was a most popular artist of the time,
winning awards and being viewed as the leading talent of “The Clique”, his life
was on track. However, In July 1842 Dadd embarked on an expedition
through Europe, accompanying a former mayor. Nearing the end of December 1842,
the two were travelling up the Nile by boat as Dadd underwent a stark personality change,
growing delusional, becoming increasingly violent and even believed he was under
the influence of an Egyptian god. Dadd’s condition was initially thought to be sunstroke
but now it is thought that he likely suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. Upon
his return home in 1843, he was diagnosed to be of unsound mind and entrusted
to his family who took him to recover in a countryside village in Kent. Not
long after, in the summer of the same year, Dadd’s condition escalated and
having become convinced that his father was “the Devil in disguise” he
killed him with a knife and fled to France. However, on his way to Paris, Dadd
attempted to murder another tourist and was arrested by police and later
confessed to killing his father. He was brought back to England and was
committed to Bethlem Psychiatric Hospital, also known
as “Bedlam”. After 20 years there, Dadd was moved to a high security facility
outside London where he remained until his death in 1886.

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During his time
spent in the Bethlem and Broadmoor asylums Dadd was encouraged to carry on
painting which ultimately led to him creating many of his masterpieces in these
places. In fact “The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke” (see below) which Dadd began working on in 1855 was
painted for H.G. Haydon, a hospital official at ‘Bedlam’. This oil painting,
although unfinished due to his relocation to Broadmoor, is widely considered
Dadd’s greatest masterpiece and it is obvious why. Upon first glance at this piece,
it is immediately apparent that the detail is so vast it is hard to comprehend all
it contains, especially given the small scale of the piece. Fortunately
for us, Dadd later wrote a poem entitled ‘Elimination of a Picture & its
subject – called The Feller’s Master Stroke’. It is long and tedious but
ultimately was a great help to critics when trying to analyse the piece. Almost
all of the characters presented in the painting were derived wholly from the
artist’s own imagination.

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