A riveting story of talent and the price it exacts, set in a richly imagined Victorian England
Called the most promising artist of his generation, handsome, modest, and affectionate, Richard Dadd rubbed shoulders with the great luminaries of the Victorian Age. He grew up along the Medway with Charles Dickens and studied at the Royal Academy Schools under the brilliant and eccentric J.M.W. Turner.
Based on Dadd’s tragic true story, Mad Richard follows the young artist as he develops his craft, contemplates the nature of art and fame — as he watches Dickens navigate those tricky waters — and ultimately finds himself imprisoned in Bedlam for murder, committed as criminally insane.
In 1853, Charlotte Brontë — about to publish her third novel, suffering from unrequited love, and herself wrestling with questions about art and artists, class, obsession and romance — visits Richard at Bedlam and finds an unexpected kinship in his feverish mind and his haunting work.
Masterfully slipping through time and memory, Mad Richard maps the artistic temperaments of Charlotte and Richard, weaving their divergent lives together with their shared fears and follies, dreams, and crushing illusions.
In this remarkable piece of historical fiction, Krueger (Drink the Sky) imaginatively delves into the life of Richard Dadd, who was well known in Victorian England first for his promising artistic career and then for his descent into murderous madness. Krueger deftly paints dual portraits of this fascinating character and Charlotte Bront , whose interview with Dadd in Bedlam opens their reticulating story lines. Dadd's narrative begins in his boyhood in 1817, lingers on his gradual rise as an artist in London, and ends with his incarceration and eventual deterioration in Bedlam in 1858. The trajectory, however, is only vaguely linear and subtly serves as a reflection of the equally blurred lines between Dadd's genius and insanity. Bront 's tale is smaller in scope, beginning just after the publication of her novel Villette in 1853 and ending just before her early death in 1855. The two story lines don't always weave together seamlessly, but they do effectively juxtapose Dadd and Bront , two very different people who travelled in similar circles during the same era and, more importantly, who were both entirely invested in what it means to be an artist. This question anchors the novel, adding depth and dimension to a terrific read.