Richard Dadd: The Patient, the Artist, and the “Face of Madness” Academic Article uri icon


  • Richard Dadd (1817-1886) was a well-known Victorian artist who murdered his father, compelled by the delusion that a demonic force possessed his father's body. He was one of the first to bypass execution by reason of insanity and spent the remainder of his life in the Bethlem and Broadmoor asylums. Dadd is rare both as a patient and an artist because he left behind nearly a 40-year record of artwork and journals, which constitute a unique medical and psychiatric resource at a time when the ideas on the relationship of facial expression and madness were changing. Sir Charles Bell's (1774-1842) widely accepted views that the "face of madness" is bestial and anatomically distinctive were being challenged by such physicians as Sir Alexander Morison (1779-1866), who was also Dadd's own "alienist" (i.e., psychiatrist). The purpose of this article is to explore the nature and extent of the influence of Bell and Morison on Dadd, which has not been brought out in the existing studies. By a comparative analysis, it will be shown that Dadd may have conveyed a different view in his works that foreshadows subsequent developments that are closer to a modern understanding.

altmetric score

  • 13.734

author list (cited authors)

  • Huddleston, S., & Russell, G. A.

citation count

  • 2

publication date

  • May 2015