Picture painted by psychiatric patient, Suffolk, England, 1930-1985
Dominating the canvas of this painting is a large house with an extensive garden and a greenhouse. A man in the foreground tends to flowers and waters the fruit and vegetables. It is not your typical image of a psychiatric hospital. The painting was made by a patient at St Audry’s Hospital in Suffolk, England. The ‘house’ in the painting resembles the hospital building at St. Audry’s. In many respects, the artist faithfully captured the ideals of ‘moral treatment’. These included manual labour and a calming, home-like environment. Moral treatment dominated psychiatry when St. Audry’s was founded in 1829. These ideals remained influential into the 1900s. The hospital had extensive and productive gardens. Patients tended them as part of their rehabilitation. The painting may have been painted for personal pleasure or as part of an art therapy programme. Psychoanalysis became prominent in the early 1900s. Psychiatrists saw therapeutic value in self-expression such as painting or poetry as well as manual labour. St Audry’s introduced occupational therapy for men in 1934 and for women in 1947. Paintings also allowed patients to indirectly comment on their feelings about life in a mental hospital. Look closely at the windows of the house. You can see a psychiatrist in a white coat observing the scene. A woman, perhaps the artist, looks out from another window. Is she trapped or is she painting?
Related Themes and Topics
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A branch of medicine concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illness.
Glossary: occupational therapy
Creative work in the medium of oil paint.