Saturday, June 6, 2009

Mad Dadds & Englishmen

Having trouble seeing the small details of this painting on your computer screen? Well, having stood in front of the original at the Tate in London, I can tell you that you need a magnifying lens to see the detail in the painting. This makes sense since Dadd used a magnifying lens when he painted it.

When I bought Queen II at the used record store in 1978, I remember reading, in mice type, along the bottom of the LP jacket: “Inspired by a painting by Richard Dadd.” The song it is referring to, of course, is The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke and its lyrics tell the story of the myriad of mythical characters in the painting.

As an art student at Ealing College in the late ’60s and early ’70s, I can imagine Freddie visiting the Tate and seeing the painting for the first time and being awestruck at Dadd’s attention to detail, not to mention his obvious love of Victorian-era faeries and other ethereal creatures. In some ways, Freddie managed to outdo the complexity and richness of the painting in his song.

Even more amazing about Dadd was that he produced his masterpieces as a paranoid schizophrenic while in a sanitarium for killing his father whom he thought was the devil (Wiki). I’m sure this added a layer of intrigue to Freddie’s perception of the painting, although I’m glad he didn’t include such references to Dadd’s condition in the song.

Wikipedia. (2009, May 23). Richard Dadd. Retrieved on June 5, 2009, from

Richard Dadd. Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke. 1855–64. Oil on canvas. 54 × 39.5 cm. Tate Gallery, London.


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