Just finished another puzzle, Richard Dadd’s (1817-1886) The Fairy Feller’s Master-stroke. I first saw this painting 42 years ago at the Tate Gallery in London and stopped dead in my tracks. It’s hard to see from the photo above, but the detail of this 21″ x 26″ painting is exquisitely rendered, sometimes painted with a single haired brush. I have to admit, my painting style, especially at the time, was broad-stroked using my full arm, almost athletic in its execution. Seeing this painting in its mesmerizing detail was enormously engaging— painting done by a miniaturist writ large ( 21″ x 26″, quite large for a miniaturist).
Later I learned that this artist had great promise, entering the Royal Academy for the Arts when he was twenty and winning many prizes. He was asked to accompany an expedition as a draftsman through Greece, Turkey, Syria and Egypt in 1842, at the end of which he became mad. His family tried to take care of him, to help him “recuperate” but he became convinced his father was the devil and murdered him. He fled England but was captured in France, threatening a tourist with a razor. He admitted to his father’s murder and, diagnosed as criminally insane, lived the rest of his life in Bedlam and then Broadmoor hospitals, never seeing the light of day again. His doctors encouraged him to paint.
When we saw that this puzzle was available, we ordered it immediately. JB said there is something provocative, intriguing, ironic about putting all the pieces together of a crazy man. I couldn’t stop thinking about that while recreating this mad, fantastical, obsessively rendered image.