Richard Dadd (1817-1887)

Dadd studied at the Royal Academy and painted many of his "fairy paintings," what in his youth he described as his wish to do "works of the imagination," before travelling to the continent in 1842. He began to show signs of mental instability after he returned to England and in 1843 he murdered his father. He was caught, judged insane, and committed to Bethlem Hospital. He continued painting, but his work became more bizarre, finicky and allegorical. His last two major works took years to complete. He painted for four years to finish Contradiction, and The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke, never quite completed, occupied him for nine years. "His intense, crowded, obsessive pictures have the look of embroidery, and are almost unique in Victorian art," says Christopher Wood; he adds that "To us he is a fascinating psychological phenomenon; to the Victorians he was merely mad" (Dictionary, 34).