Dadd, Richard (English, 1817-1886)

Sir Alexander Morison (1779-1866), Alienist

Reference Type:
Alexander Morison (1779-1866) received his MD in 1799 in Edinburgh and practiced privately until 1808, when he moved to London. In 1810 he was appointed inspector of the lunatic asylums in Surrey. Morison established the first formal lecture series on psychiatry, which were published in 1825 as Outlines of Lectures on Mental Diseases, because he believed that physicians who worked with mental patients should have specialized training. In 1835, he was appointed to Bethlem, where Richard Dodd was a patient. Later he served as physician to members of the British Royal Family and was knighted in 1838. English painter Richard Dadd was first stricken with signs of mental illness on a trip to Egypt and the Holy Land in 1842-43, believing that spirits were chasing him. Because he seemed better after returning home, his father ignored medical advice and refused to have him placed in an institution. Not long after, believing his father was the devil, Dadd murdered him with a razor and a knife. He was caught in France, put on trial, and sent to Bethlem’s Criminal Lunatic Department. Based on the small amount of evidence available, it has been suggested that he was schizophrenic. Dadd was provided with artist’s materials, and during stable periods was permitted to sketch and paint. He created several portraits of various staff members, including consulting physician Morison on the occasion of his departure from Bethlem in 1852. Dadd chose to represent him not at the hospital, but at his estate north of Edinburgh, a sketch of which was given to the artist by Morison’s daughter. Two Newhaven fishwives are also included, for unknown reasons. Morison is dressed as a gentleman, but seems distant both physically and emotionally from the setting. It has been suggested that this reflects the artist’s state of mind rather than the physician’s personality. Notes by Mariann Smith
History of Medicine
Physician-Patient Relations
Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland