Painting: Method onto Madness

Insanity today is considered primarily a medical problem. But over the centuries the notion persisted that the mad were afflicted by God—and that along with this affliction went preternatural vision. The 19th century painter Richard Dadd had the fortune—as well as the misfortune—to embody the two definitions. His talent blossomed in an insane asylum. Yet his masterpiece, The Fairy Feller's Masterstroke, combines Boschian mystery with Alice-in-Wonderland fantasy in a way that makes it clear Dadd was a prophet of Surrealism. In a recent issue of the New Statesman, Critic Edward Lucie-Smith...

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