About this artwork

Hat in hand, as if bidding farewell, Alexander Morison, a pioneer of psychiatric medicine, stands before his estate in Newhaven, just north of Edinburgh. This portrait was painted at the end of Morison's seventeen years as consultant to Bethlem Asylum in Surrey. The artist, Richard Dadd, was one of Morison's patients. He had murdered his father believing him to be the devil. Dadd, hospitalised at Bethlem, did not visit Scotland, but based his image on a sketch by Morison's daughter. The two tiny women are fishwives, and are probably based on photographs taken by Hill and Adamson.

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  • title: Sir Alexander Morison, 1779 - 1866. Alienist
  • accession number: PG 2623
  • artist: Richard DaddEnglish (1819 - 1887)
  • depicted: Sir Alexander Morison
  • gallery: On Loan
  • object type: Painting
  • subject: Fishing industry Medicine and science
  • medium: Oil on canvas
  • date created: 1852
  • measurements: 51.10 x 61.30 cm (framed: 59.00 x 68.80 x 5.30 cm)
  • credit line: Purchased with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund 1984
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

Richard Dadd

Richard Dadd

Born in Kent, Richard Dadd had made a promising start as a student at the Royal Academy Schools, London. After making a lengthy trip to the Europe and the Near East, his mental health deteriorated. In 1843, suffering from a form of schizophrenia, he killed his father, believing him to be the devil. Dadd fled to France and attempted a second murder before he was arrested. He spent the remainder of his life in mental institutions. Dadd, encouraged by some of his doctors, continued to paint. Athough his fairy scenes, painted in confinement, may seem linked to his madness, fairy subjects were popular with artists in the 1840s and Dadd had had success with such scenes before his illness.