NARRATOR: With its close attention to detail and miniscule, magical figures, this painting evokes a dream-like, almost hallucinogenic world. It’s called ‘The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke’, and is loosely based it on Shakespeare’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’. It’s a work by Richard Dadd, whose unconventional artistic vision is reflected in his unusual life. Art historian, Nicholas Tromans. NICHOLAS TROMANS:
He was often included, perhaps wrongly I think, within the list of outsider artists. He really couldn’t have been further from that situation. He was very much an insider, a brilliantly talented teenager, enrolled in the Royal Academy schools and when a wealthy Welsh lawyer came to London looking to recruit a young man with whom to go travelling, then the elite of the London art world quickly pointed to Richard Dadd and said, well he’s really the bright spark you should take him. So intense was the journey that it seems to have triggered in Richard Dadd some awful breakdown and he had even come so far as to identify his father as a devil, if not the devil incarnate and he murdered his father in a park in Kent. He was placed in the Royal Bethlem Hospital, colloquially known as Bedlam. A place of intense claustrophobia, minimal sensual stimulation and where nevertheless, or perhaps for that very reason, he felt motivated to make these extraordinary works into which one can’t help feeling he imaginatively displaced himself as a kind of escape from the conditions in which he was held.