Richard Warren

20thc British art and poetry (mainly), plus bits of my own – "Clearly I tap to you clearly along the plumbing of the world" (W S Graham)

Nicholas Tromans on Richard Dadd

Let’s take a moment to salute Tate Publishing‘s new book on mad-as-a-hatter, parricidal fairy-painter Richard Dadd, by Nicholas Tromans, 19th century and orientalism specialist. Salute, that is, in the sense that anything on Dadd is good news.

And this is a nice big book, with some beautifully reproduced paintings. Though I could have done with a few more, to be honest, instead of the not-so-helpful ground plans of Broadmoor etc. Tromans is big on the context of the asylum system, on which he has invested much research, but maybe a little light on analysis of Dadd’s work itself.

But let’s not be grumpy. I would have been overjoyed to cough up the required £25 simply for the full page reproduction of Dadd’s Mother and Child of 1860, which I don’t recall seeing before. This mesmerising, hallucinatory oil painting is astonishing for its explicit Victorian inculturation of the image of Our Lady with Child. (As opposed to the implicit contextualisation of, say, Ford Madox-Brown’s slightly earlier Pretty Baa-Lambs.) Why the fluffed-up blackbird at the left and the distant man-of-war? Who cares? It’s a total masterpiece.


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