Artist biography

English painter. He was the fourth of nine children of Robert Dadd, an apothecary and chemist in Chatham. Dadd began drawing when he was about 13, and it seems likely that he learnt the technique of miniature painting during his formative years. In 1837 Dadd entered the Royal Academy Schools, London. Dadd was regarded as one of the most promising young artists of his generation and was universally liked for his gentleness, intelligence and cheerful good nature.

In July 1842 he left England with Sir Thomas Phillips (1801–67), accompanying him through Europe and the Middle East to make drawings. Dadd returned from this journey in May 1843 showing unmistakable signs of insanity. He stabbed his father to death. In August 1844 he was certified insane. In 1864 he was transferred to the newly built criminal lunatic asylum at Broadmoor (nr Crowthorne, Berks), where he died of consumption.

He continued to paint throughout nearly 42 years of confinement. He appears to have had at least one of his own sketchbooks with him but otherwise relied chiefly on his imagination and a strong visual memory. His most remarkable watercolours are the small landscapes, shipping scenes and occasional fancy subjects, some smaller than a postcard, which were painted with the tip of a very fine brush using a technique that he refined and perfected over many years.

London, V&A [sketchbook]


Article provided by Grove Art Online