We are delighted to announce a special exhibition to highlight the Psychiatry in Pictures series that has featured in the British Journal of Psychiatry (BJPsych) since 2001.
The exhibition will be on display at our London headquarters, throughout 2024, and is open to members.
Below you can learn more about the exhibition, and download the accompanying exhibition information leaflet.
Dr Allan Beveridge, Cover Artwork Editor, introduces the exhibition:
The ‘Psychiatry in Pictures’ series began in July 2001. It was the idea of Professor Robert Howard and originally the pictures appeared in the inside pages with an accompanying text. The first feature was three paintings by the Victorian artist, Richard Dadd, who had developed a psychotic illness and murdered his father, believing he was Satan. He spent the rest of his life in Bethlem and Broadmoor hospitals, where he continued to paint.
I took over in February 2004 and, in January 2008, for the first time, the picture was featured on the cover. Prior to this, the Journal cover consisted entirely of text, relating to the content of the issue. As well as attempting to make the cover more interesting and appealing, the inclusion of pictures was following in the tradition of the medical humanities, which contended that the arts can add to our understanding of illness.
They can complement biomedical knowledge by offering another perspective and one not filtered through the eyes of the clinician. The arts can convey what it feels like to be mentally distressed and to be a psychiatric patient: they offer an existential viewpoint. They can also provide many other perspectives on mental illness and this exhibition has been organised around the many themes that the visual arts reflect and illustrate.
As well as historical archives, pictures can tell us much about psychiatry’s past. They can convey how patients, psychiatric staff and institutions looked. An early series featured a painting of the Scottish alienist, Sir Alexander Morison by Richard Dadd. This painting was followed by several pictures from his book, The Physiognomy of Mental Diseases. Morison had commissioned professional artists to create portraits of the inmates of Bethlem hospital and other asylums in the south of England.
The next section looks at the depiction of mental and emotional disturbance, and takes in the experience of alcoholism, grief, suicidal ideation and anorexia. This is followed by portraits of patients, some by major artists, such as Theodore Gericault and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and some by artists, like Denis Reed and William Bartholomew, who were, themselves inmates of asylums and who portrayed their fellow-patients. Next, we have a section on the work created by psychiatric patients. WAF Browne, Superintendent of the Crichton Royal Asylum in Dumfries, amassed paintings by patients and his collection is represented by a work of Joseph Askew.
The section also includes a picture by August Natterer from the famous collection of patients’ art, assembled by the German psychiatrist and art historian, Hans Prinzhorn from asylums throughout Europe and which is now permanently housed in Heidelberg. Also featured in this section is a picture by Johann Hauser from the House of Artists in Gugging, near Vienna, which was set up by the psychiatrist, Leo Navratil in order that patients could create art, unrestrained by the intervention or supervision of clinicians.
Subsequently we look at the work of clinician-artists, including the ‘Napoleon of the neuroses’, Jean-Martin Charcot. This is followed by a section on work by professional artists, many of whom, such as Van Gogh, Charles Doyle, Louis Wain and Leonora Carrington, also suffered from mental illness.
A section on conflict looks at visual responses to genocide, war and the concentration camp, and includes a stunning last picture by the German, Jewish artist, Felix Nussbaum, murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz in 1944. Finally, we look at four works from beyond Europe, and which features a painting by the renowned Japanese artist and long-term resident in a psychiatric hospital, Yayoi Kusama.
BJPsych Cover Artwork Editor
Thanks to Andrew Morris, Peter Tyrer, Siri Nylund, Holly Drury, Catriona Grant, Hannah Ali and all the staff at the Journal who have helped with ‘Psychiatry in Pictures’ over the years.