Art of Psychiatry Society

Upcoming Art of Psychiatry meeting: “Janet Frame, Psychiatry, the Saving Role of the Maudsley and ‘Scriptotherapy'” 20 July 2017 Robin Murray B IoPPN 6pm All welcome!
June 24, 2017, 12:54 pm
Filed under: Books















Please join us for this upcoming Art of Psychiatry Society meeting!

Date: 20 July 2017 Venue/Time: Robin Murray Rm B in the IoPPN 6pm.


Speaker meeting with Dr Josephine McQuail

Janet Frame, Psychiatry, the Saving Role of the Maudsley and “Scriptotherapy”


We’re really pleased that Dr. Josephine McQuail is joining us to speak about Janet Frame (1924-2004), the innovative New Zealand writer.  Frame spent time at the Maudsley, and her experience of psychiatric treatment was distinctly mixed.

The now infamous “sexologist” John Money, of Johns Hopkins, was a professor at the teacher’s college Frame attended in Dunedin, New Zealand, and became Frame’s first psychotherapist.  This resulted in her being committed to the Seacliff Institution, narrowly averting a lobotomy. It was the recognition she got for her first collection of short stories, which John Money actually submitted for a literary prize on her behalf, which saved her. Her Seacliff psychiatrist saw in the newspaper that Frame had won the literary prize, and cancelled her surgery. Thus, Money’s romanticizing of the prototype of the “mad” artist both damned and saved Janet Frame, who would go on to have further psychiatric problems and encounters with the psychiatric profession.

The Maudsley Hospital, to which Frame was voluntarily committed for 6 months (1957-8) while on an extended stay in London, played a pivotal role in her psychiatric treatment. It was through John Money that she came to the Maudsley – while she was staying and writing in Ibiza, Spain, he became concerned about her mental state, mailed her an anti-psychotic drug, chlorpromazine, and told her when she arrived in London, her next stop after Spain, to seek help at the Maudsley, which had a reputation for humanitarian psychiatric treatment. Frame complied, even before Money had a chance to send a referral to Dr. Michael Shepherd. Eventually, however, Dr. Shepherd received Frame’s records from Seacliff, and an opinionated diagnosis from John Money. Despite all of this, Frame was assigned to Dr. Alan Miller, who seemed a perfect fit. Eventually, Dr. Miller and a psychiatric team headed by Sir Aubrey Lewis declared that Frame “never suffered from schizophrenia”.

Frame’s greatest treatment, however, was her writing. Before going to the Maudsley she declared, “ ‘To me the need to write and the act of writing are worth more than any opinions of what I write’ ”. Frame’s novel Daughter Buffalo will exemplify her practice of “scriptotherapy” – Suzette Henke’s term for therapeutic writing which allows the subject to work through trauma. In Daughter Buffalo (1972) Frame works through personal conflicts in her present time in a profound meditation on love and death. This novel could be called Frame’s Frankenstein, and shares a similar questioning of patriarchy with Mary Shelley’s iconic novel.


Dr. Josephine McQuail has published on William Blake, Aldous Huxley, Virginia Woolf, Janet Frame, George Gissing, W. B. Yeats, and others, as well as on pedagogical issues. She is a professor of English at Tennessee Technological University. She is active in labor issues in academia. Her edited collection of essays on the New Zealand writer Janet Frame is forthcoming with McFarland Publishing in 2017.


This is an open meeting and all are welcome (including SLaM employees, psychiatry trainees, service users, members of the public).  No need to book.  It’s okay to turn up late.  Entrance is free!


Contact us: @artofpsychiatry


How to find the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN):

Upcoming Art of Psychiatry meeting – “James Tilly Matthews and the Influencing Machine” with Mike Jay – Thurs Feb 23 6pm R Murray B IoPPN – all welcome!
February 14, 2017, 7:51 pm
Filed under: Books








Upcoming Art of Psychiatry speaker meeting:

“James Tilly Matthews and the Influencing Machine”

With our speaker – writer, historian and curator Mike Jay

Date: Thursday February 23rd
Venue:  Robin Murray B Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience.
Time: 6pm

Please join us for a speaker meeting concerning the fascinating case of James Tilly Matthews.  James Tilly Matthews was a former peace activist of the Napoleonic Wars.  He was confined to the Bedlam asylum in 1797 for believing that his mind was under the control of the “Air Loom” – a terrifying machine whose mesmeric rays and mysterious gases were brainwashing politicians and plunging Europe into revolution, terror, and war.   But caught up in high-level diplomatic intrigues in the chaos of the French revolution many of the conspiracies in which Matthews claimed to be involved were entirely real.

Matthew’s “Influencing Machine” has recently been materialized by artist Rod Dickinson, and is currently on view at the Bethlem Gallery.

About Mike Jay:

Mike Jay is a historian, curator and writer.  His recent book is This Way Madness Lies, a highly illustrated history of madness and the asylum, published in the UK and USA by Thames & Hudson. It was written in conjunction with Wellcome Collection’s exhibition Bedlam: the asylum and beyond, on which he was guest curator.  His previous book, The Influencing Machine, is out in paperback and on Kindle.   He reviews regularly for the London Review of Books, the Wall Street Journal and the Literary Review.


Find out more:

A film about James Tilly Matthews –

Mike Jay’s article about James Tilly Matthews –

Mike Jay’s book: Influencing Machine, The : James Tilly Matthews and the Air Loom

About the Air Loom in the Bethlem –


This is an open meeting and all are welcome (including SLaM employees, psychiatry trainees, service users, members of the public).  No need to book.  It’s okay to turn up late.  Entrance is free!

Contact us:

Art of Psychiatry Society speaker meeting Tuesday 30 June 6pm IoPPN: “Art, Autobiography and the Avant-Garde Asylum” with Dr Sarah Chaney. All welcome.
June 11, 2015, 5:12 pm
Filed under: Books











Upcoming Art of Psychiatry speaker meeting:

“Art, Autobiography and the Avant-Garde Asylum”

Date: June 30 2015
Time: 1800
Venue:Seminar room 1 Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience.

Please join us for what will be a fascinating AoP meeting with our speaker Dr Sarah Chaney.

Dr Chaney’s talk will explore some of the connections between art, psychiatry and modernism, focusing on the Bethlem art collections and archive. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, several psychiatrists at the Bethlem Royal Hospital began to collect patient artwork and autobiographical accounts, and in 1900 a public exhibition of patient art was held at the hospital. What can the archives tell us about the relationships between these doctors and their patients, and the role of art and autobiography in psychiatry in this period?

About Dr. Sarah Chaney:

Dr Chaney is a Research Associate at the UCL Centre for the History of Psychological Disciplines. Her PhD thesis focused on the concept of self-mutilation in late nineteenth-century psychiatry, and she is currently expanding this into a ‘History of Self-Harm’ (to be published 2016). She has also worked for Bethlem Museum of the Mind and runs the exhibition and events programme at the Royal College of Nursing. She tweets as @kentishscribble

This is an open meeting – all are welcome – including service users, SLaM employees, psychiatry trainees, and members of the public

Crisps and wine provided.

July 2013 book: The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz
November 26, 2013, 8:51 pm
Filed under: Books, Reading the Mind


July 2013 book: The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz

All grades of psychiatrist were round the table on July 9th, despite the sizzling heat outside.  For some, Grosz’s work was a distillation of 25 years’ therapy into an honest, simple tome: “What I’m describing here isn’t a magical process,” says Grosz of psychotherapy, “It’s something that is a part of our everyday lives – we tap, we listen”. Nicely put. And yet, for others round the table, there was something unnatural about this tapping.

“Which genre does it belong to?”, one member cried, holding aloft a stick of satay chicken. A forensic consultant sipped his orange juice and replied, “these are a series of case-studies”.  This suggestion did not hold under scrutiny. The histories are mere pages long, some even lacking patients. For example, the chapter ‘Going Back’ concerns his odd gift to his father: a holiday to Eastern Europe, and thus to a childhood marred by Nazism. Even in the more patient-focused chapters, things seem rather well-wrapped for clinical realities.  The first, ‘How we can be possessed by a story that cannot be told’, is about a mendacious patient who fakes his own suicide to upset Grosz. But then the ending is more Grimm than grim: he marries, settles – lives happily ever after. Some of us loved the strong presence of the therapist’s own life and humanity, loved also the subtle, jargon-free exploration of dreams. Others yearned for more warts, more confusion, and more obvious use of psychological technique. Orange juice was exchanged for glasses of viticulture from the warm South, as we approached something like a conclusion.

For all their allure, we agreed that there is a tension in Grosz’s tales, between clarified fact and coddled artifice. This is alluded to in the fly-notes, which describes the cases as “aphoristic”, an original thought expressed in memorable form. None other than Hippocrates was the originator of the aphorism, with his famous maxim on medicine: ars longa, vita brevis (the life so short, the art so long to learn). Fairy tales are also a kind of aphorism. And thus with Grosz: his studies are so short, the point they make is so clear, so elegantly put across, that some readers perceived hints of the artificial behind the seeming reality of his tales.  Does this too-neat packaging of clinical truths matter? Perhaps not. Grosz is clear about his project, quoting Isak Dinesen who said: “Any suffering can be borne if it is put into a narrative.” He has done just this – indeed, done it beautifully with each case-tale. More than artful, perhaps even bordering on Art itself, these histories drew excited comparisons from works of poetry to the musical studies of Bartok. In the final analysis, we raised our collective glasses to Grosz, only to find our glasses empty. Well, such is life – and having examined it thoroughly, we closed our books.

Ben Robinson


September 2013 book: The Myth of Mental Illness by Thomas Sasz

Maria Walsh author of ‘Art and Psychoanalysis’ rescheduled to November 12 2013 6pm
October 15, 2013, 2:35 pm
Filed under: Art, Books

book cover

(This meeting is rescheduled from 24 September)

Tuesday 12 November 2013 6pm Institute of Psychiatry Seminar room 6

Speaker meeting: Maria Walsh talks about her book Art and Psychoanalysis

In Art and Psychoanalysis Maria Walsh investigates how psychoanalysis has been an invaluable resource for artists, art critics and historians throughout the twentieth century.  Artists as varied as Max Ernst, Louise Bourgeois, Cindy Sherman and Marina Abramovic can be examined with the benefit of psychoanalytic thinking, and contemporary critics use psychoanalytic concepts as tools to understand how meaning operates.    Walsh’s argument is that psychoanalysis, like art, is a cultural discourse about the mind in which the authority of discourse itself can be undermined, provoking ambiguity and uncertainty and destabilising identity.


This is a public meeting, all are welcome.

Next RtM book – Freud’s Studies on Hysteria
July 19, 2012, 7:43 pm
Filed under: Books

Studies on Hysteria (The Penguin Freud library)

Date for next book club is Tuesday September 11th 2012 at 6pm, IoP, room to be confirmed.

Here are Amazon links – please use to support the book club


Reading the Mind: “Psychiatry in Dissent”
May 28, 2012, 6:42 pm
Filed under: Books

Influential when it was published during the 1970s, how relevant is Anthony Clare’s Psychiatry in Dissent today?  We discussed this book last night at the Maudsley book group, and were joined by Prof Robin Murray, and friend and colleague of Clare.

Clare, a clever and urbane Irishman, was one of the first to take on the arguments of ‘anti-psychiatrists’ such as Thomas Szasz and R. D. Laing.  Although Clare was still in psychiatric training when Dissent was published he found himself propelled into the limelight as a spokesman for the profession.  This was something that Prof Murray said caused some resentment at the time, not least because Dissent is, in places, quite critical of contemporary senior psychiatrists.

After the passage of years the book is notable for both what it does and doesn’t include.  The first two chapters of the book are perhaps the strongest.  They explain the concept of psychiatric illness and the process of diagnosis, both of which have undergone little change.  Also still relevant is Clare’s critique of the Rosenhan experiment .  This is an interesting, but methodologically flawed, study.  Controversy was raging about it in the mid-70s and its results are still cited uncritically today.

There’s no mention of ADHD, PTSD or bipolar spectrum – these didn’t ‘exist’ then.   A similar book written today would need to address controversy of the efficacy of SSRI antidepressants.  There is a chapter on psychosurgery, something of a non-topic now, and already on its way out during the 1970s.  The 40s, 50s and 60s had seen lobotomy used for a wide range of presentations from schizophrenia to migraine.

The final chapter “Contemporary psychiatry” is notable in that in many respects it echoes many of the problems of psychiatry today, as if nothing has changed: poor recruitment to the specialty and under provision of services.

Towards the end of his life Clare talked about updating Dissent, but a heart attack intervened.  It would be nice to have a contemporary critique of psychiatric practice aimed at the layman – a modern Psychiatry in Dissent is sorely required today.

Reading the Mind, The Maudsley Book Group.
April 6, 2012, 6:02 pm
Filed under: Books

One year ago I decided to start a book group. Bang on trend for 2011 eh? However, this wasn’t any old book group, this one had decidedly high falutin’ aims. With psychiatric training focusing increasingly on competencies and MRCPsych requirements, there seems little time left for learning about concepts critical to the development and history of psychiatry and related fields e.g. psychoanalysis, psychology, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, neuroscience etc… Such disciplines can be hard to access for the uninitiated and a medical training doesn’t help much to furnish one with the necessary critical tools to appraise, say, a philosophy of mind book however relevant it might be to psychiatry. Thus Reading the Mind was born; unashamedly educational and aimed at psychiatric trainees wanting a little bit more.

Our first book was The Divided Self  by R D Laing (1960) a seminal work by a key figure in the anti-psychiatry movement critiquing the biological model of schizophrenia. Here Laing reworks psychosis as an understandable response to intolerable pressures placed on the patient by society and the family. This was followed by Notes Upon a Case of Obsessional Neurosis by Sigmund Freud (Rat Man) (1909), a great introductory text to Freud’s core concepts of psychopathology, particularly neurosis, and an exemplar case history on the descriptive phenomenology of OCD. Next, we discussed Consciousness Explained by Daniel Dennett (1994), an influential and contemporary philosophical critique of the paradigm we use to think about consciousness outlining the foundation for his own theory of consciousness. Opening Skinner’s Box by Lauren Slater (2004) provided the group with a run-through of the ten most important psychological experiments of the 20th Century and in doing so provided a crash-course in the recent history of Psychology. We then read The Loss of Sadness by Allan Horowitz and Jerome Wakefield (2007) a devastating critique of the current concept of depression within psychiatric nosology; Illness as Metaphor by Susan Sontag (1978) a brilliant essay on the dangers of reducing illness to metaphor and the pervasive effect on doctor, patient and society; Winnicott by Adam Phillips (1998) a welcome introduction to his life, work and key concepts, and finally, The Mask of Sanity by Hervey Cleckley (1941,1982) a seminal study on the psychopath. Grounded in case studies, it profiles and refines the concept of the psychopath, and was used heavily by Robert Hare in developing his PCL checklist.

Our next meeting is on Tuesday 22nd May and we’ll be discussing Anthony Clare’s Psychiatry in Dissent (1980).  Unfortunately, due to our funding, Reading the Mind is only open to Maudsley trainees.  However if you’re interested in starting a similar book group then please get in touch.

Dr Lisa Conlan, ST6 General Adult Psychiatry, SLAM.

Writing Madness on Radio 4
March 25, 2012, 5:35 pm
Filed under: Books

There’s an interesting programme just broadcast on BBC Radio 4: Writing Madness

From the BBC website:

“Vivienne Parry takes her diagnoses of literary heroines into the 20th century and the age of Freud, the Great War and the explosion of the ‘sciences of the mind’ focusing on three great works of fiction, mixing contemporary psychiatric and literary insight.

How did modern literary and psychiatric ideas meet and how did each shape the other? Do these heroines show literature of the period to be a critical – and even emancipating – force…or is fiction really medicine’s stooge? Novels on the couch include Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway….interestingly with both novels there’s a tendency to base the heroines on real people – Nicole Diver is based on the case history of Fitzgerald’s own wife Zelda, whereas Woolf’s Mrs.Dalloway comes very close in literary terms to what Freud calls ‘self-analysis’ – one difference is that Woolf sometimes believed ‘madness’ was necessary to be creative, while Scott Fitzgerald depicted it as disastrous drain on creativity (ie. his). And both novels have the dynamic and lucrative new industry of psychotherapy in their sights. Vivienne compares fiction in the age of Freud to literary ideas of mental health in the Victorian age and in Dickens specifically, using Great Expectations’ Miss Havisham as a case study.

Contributors include psychotherapist and essayist Adam Philips, leading psychiatrist Simon Wessely, cultural historian Lisa Appignanesi and Chris Thompson, psychiatrist and medical director of The Priory”

The programme is broadcast again on March 31 at 2330 and is also currently available on iPlayer.

Picture via Wikipedia


Richard Dadd: The artist and the asylum
February 18, 2012, 10:17 am
Filed under: Art, Books

Richard Dadd (1 August 1817 – 7 January 1886) was an English painter of the Victorian era.  Following a long tour of the Middle East in the early 1840s he succumbed to a schizophrenia-type illness, following which he murdered his father and fled to France where he attacked another traveller.  After his return to England he spent over forty years in the Bethlem and Broadmoor, during which period most of the works for which he is best known were created.

Dadd’s painting The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke is featured on the cover of a recent British Journal of Psychiatry.  Nicholas Tromans, a Senior Lecturer at London’s Kingston University, is widely published on the subject of 19th century art and is author of Richard Dadd: the Artist and the Asylum.  He came to talk to us about Dadd’s life and mental illness:

AoP: As a young man, how did Dadd go about establishing himself as a painter in London?

NT:  It seems that Richard owed a great deal to his father, who had been a high-street chemist in Kent but who, when Richard was a teenager, took over a gilding business in central London which must have had many professional artists among its clients. Dadd’s own beginnings as a professional artist were really entirely conventional. He became a student at the Royal Academy (virtually next door to his father’s shop) and made studies after the sculptures at the British Museum. He appears to have been extraordinarily self-confident, and was soon sending his pictures to exhibitions in London and in places like Birmingham and Manchester. He managed to attract the patronage of both London aristocrats and the self-made men of the industrial cities – as well as the support of some influential critics. By the time he left for his tour of the East in 1842 he was one of the risng stars of the London art scene.

AoP: What do we know about how and why he killed his father?

NT: Towards the end of his tour of the Mediterranean, in the Spring of 1843, Richard began to suffer from delusions – that there were people trying to harm him, perhaps that he could see the devil in human forms. Many of those who had known him were worried by his unusual behaviour after his return to London, and his father consulted a psychiatrist at St Luke’s – Alexander Sutherland – who recommended hospitalisation. Possibly in response to this suggestion, Richard carefully planned a knife attack on his father, which succeeded in killing him. Richard was soon afterwards arrested and eventually sent to Bethlem Hospital in Lambeth. Later Dadd explained that the killing had been required of him by the Ancient Egyptian god of the dead, Osiris, and that although Richard approved of the destruction of the imposter who claimed to be his father, he was in effect only an instrument in the hands of the deity. It was a fantastic delusion, but one in keeping with Richard’s larger set of beliefs about the continuing truth and relevance of the philosophies of ancient cultures.

AoP: What do we know about how he was as a patient?

With regard to his time at Bethlem (1844-64) – not a lot. There are really only two entries in his casenotes, and the first of these dates from as late as 1854. This entry describes how violent Dadd was considered when first admitted, and how he would suddenly strike another patient without provocation (and then immediately apologise). The formal designation of ‘dangerous’ was applied to Dadd even during the last years of his time at Bethlem. I infer from the lack of detail in the notes, however, that he was by and large not an especially troublesome patient – not one who required strategies to manage. That he painted ambitious pictures for the two senior managers of Bethlem – paintings which he worked on for years – suggests some kind of relationship between patient and staff, although certainly not an uncomplicatedly collaborative one.

AoP: Why was he transferred to Broadmoor?

Dadd was admitted to Bethlem as a Criminal Lunatic – someone too unwell to be punished for a crime, or (from the 1840s) one too unwell to stand trial at all. This meant being placed in a special wing of the hospital in very cramped, minimally furnished, high-security conditions. It was obvious to the authorities that something needed to be done with this novel legal category of prisoner/patient, and a dedicated new hospital was made possible by an Act of Parliament in the early 1860s. This was to be Broadmoor near Reading, to which Dadd was transferred along with his fellow male Criminal Lunatics, in 1864, and where he died and is buried. There were those – among them the Superintendent of Bethlem – who feared that gathering together these cases out in the countryside would produce “a bastile of lunacy”, feared and resented by the public. These critics were to be proved at least partly right, but for Dadd the change brought improvements. By any common-sense criteria of well-being, his life got better: he was able to see more, to move about more; he took an interest in cricket and chess; and the range of media in which he himself worked expanded.

AoP: How has Dadd’s legacy been regarded after his death?

Dadd’s meticulous watercolours never entirely went off the radar of the art market. Collectors were able to buy them as they left Bethlem and Broadmoor by one route or another. The V&A and the British Museum both acquired watercolours by Dadd while he was still living at Broadmoor. But after his death there were really only a series of false starts when it came to retrieving his biography and reconstructing his oeuvre. Various people had a go, but there was just too little to go on. Things changed only in the 1960s when the Fairy Feller arrived at the Tate and when Bethlem acquired a dynamic and imaginative archivist who was in a position to become Dadd’s first proper biographer. This all coincided of course with the passionate debates generated by the so-called anti-psychiatry movement, and Dadd – in the guise of heroic ‘survivor’ of the Victorian asylum – seemed suddenly of acute cultural significance. Interest in him has calmed down since. As I say in the preface to my own book on Dadd, I have not tried to resurrect him as a hero of any kind: I have tried to understand him as a wonderful artist – one of the most exciting of the Victorian age in my opinion – who happened to spend his career in unusual circumstances.

AoP: Despite his situation, Dadd’s pictures seem untouched by the content of his delusion and he never addressed asylum life in paint.  Can you reflect on this?”

Well, “sane” Victorian artists rarely painted the streets on which they lived, or pictures which sought to sum up their philosophies of history. They were typically more interested in the same kinds of things on which Dadd remained fixed, that is, the topography of exotic places filtered through the memory, portraits, and illustrations to literature. Dadd had never been a Realist — on the contrary he was from the start of his career a painter of poetic imagination. And in any case, one reason for spending so much time thinking back, visually, over his time abroad in the early 1840s must surely have been a need to escape from the very limited environment in which he had to live.

AoP: And where can interested people see Dadd’s stuff?  

NT: Not a lot of oil paintings in public collections (the watercolours can only be shown periodically of course because of their vulnerability to light).

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery have Dadd’s wonderful portrait of Dr. Alexander Morison:

Tate Britain Dadd collection

And just last year, the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston acquired the early fairy subject Puck which had been in a Preston collection in the nineteenth century

The best place to head is however Bethlem Hospital itself where a substantial number of Dadd’s works can be seen in a context which helps make sense of them.

A small collection of Richard Dadd’s paintings is being exhibited Feb – April 2012 in the Bethlem Hospital museum – details.


Richard Dadd: The artist and the asylum on

This clip of a Richard Dadd painting being discovered on Antiques Roadshow is worth a watch (starts at 4:24)

Tate channel: Richard Dadd the artist and the asylum


Richard Dadd: Masterpieces of the asylum Independent 2011

Richard Dadd: Madness and Beauty Telegraph 2008

Review of Artist and the asylum:
Guardian A S Byatt September 2011
Telegraph Nicholas Shakespeare July 2011