Inside out: Art on the fringes
- By: Toby Pitts-Tucker
Nestled in the grounds of Bethlem Royal Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in south east London, a small but lively museum displays a remarkable collection of artwork by psychiatric patients. The collection was started by two psychiatrists, Eric Guttmann and Walter Maclay, in the 1930s. It comprises art by past and present patients of Bethlem Royal Hospital and its sister hospitals in the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. It includes work by established artists who became mentally ill, by those who used art to communicate mental distress, and by patients for whom art contributed to their recovery. The genre of art on display can be loosely described as “outsider art,” a term coined by art critic Roger Cardinal in the 1970s to represent art by those on the fringes of society.
Bethlem Royal Hospital’s Archives hold about 950 works in total, but, due to limited display space, the museum