The Sleep of Titania (1841)
Artist: Richard Dadd 1817-1886
Born in Kent in 1817, Dadd was the son of a chemist whose drawing skills were noted at an early age and he was admitted to the Royal Academy of Arts in London at the age of 20. He had a keen interest, and was adept at painting fairies and other mystical creatures. It is thought that Dadd suffered from a form of paranoid schizophrenia, and tragically killed his father whom he thought was the devil, fleeing authorities to France. On his way to Paris he was taken in by police after trying to kill a tourist with a razor blade. He spent the last forty years in an asylum but was allowed to continue to paint whilst incarcerated in Bethlem Psychiatric Hospital (known as Bedlam), producing many of his most famous paintings. Exhibited in 1841 at the Royal Academy, The Sleep of Titania illustrates a scene from Shakespeare”s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and depicts its characters in intense detail, one of Dadd’s obsessive traits. Titania is lulled to sleep by the fairies as her jealous husband Oberon, king of the fairies, (seen slightly hidden in the cave) prepares to put the juice of a magic plant on her eyes causing her to fall in love with the first creature she sees (in this case a weaver named Bottom, who has the head of an ass). Reference is made to the performance of the play with the circle of bats framing the painting giving the suggestion of stage curtains.