Art in madness: Dr. W.A.F. Browne (1805-1885), moral treatment and patient art at Crichton Royal Institution, Dumfries, with special reference to his medical superintendence, 1839-1857

Park, Maureen Patricia (2007) Art in madness: Dr. W.A.F. Browne (1805-1885), moral treatment and patient art at Crichton Royal Institution, Dumfries, with special reference to his medical superintendence, 1839-1857. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis presents a detailed analysis of the art collection created by Dr W. A. F. Browne during the period from 1838 to 1857 when he was Physician Superintendent of Crichton Royal Institution in Dumfries. It is the earliest collection of asylum patient art known to have survived from the nineteenth century. Using the extensive archives at Crichton, the existing artwork is examined and the patients who became involved in this activity are identified. The art collection is presented as tangible evidence of Browne's therapeutic activities at Crichton. The formation of the collection is placed within the context of Browne's career as one of the pioneers of moral treatment in Scottish psychiatry in the nineteenth century. His early training in Edinburgh and Paris, his years at Montrose Royal Lunatic Asylum and the publication of What Asylums Were, Are, and Ought to Be (1837) are discussed in relation to the changes in legislation and developments in medical practice that affected the treatment of the insane during this period. This thesis argues that it was Browne's experience of, and commitment to, the humane treatment of the insane that led him to introduce a programme of activities and pursuits, including art, for his patients at Crichton. The many varied activities designed to relieve, divert, educate and entertain his patients are examined - exercise, employment, educational classes, the creation of a library and museum, publication of an asylum periodical, musical and theatrical entertainments, drawing and painting, picnics in the countryside, and attendance at events in Dumfries. Until now, research on the links between art, mental illness and moral treatment has identified only a few individual asylum patients who produced art. In presenting a study of a group of patients in a nineteenth-century asylum and their art production, the thesis places that art within the wider therapeutic context. A comparison is made between Browne's description of his collection in the article 'Mad Artists' and the volume of drawings. Art in Madness, now housed in Crichton Museum. The existing artwork is described in detail. The thesis identifies the reasons why Browne, alone among his peers, chose to preserve his patients' productions of 'art in madness'. The thesis presents a detailed analysis of the patients who participated in art activity at Crichton. Ten female and thirty-six male patients and their art are examined. Details are presented of their involvement in art, what works can be attributed to them and the type of subjects they chose to depict. Most of the drawings represent subjects that were typical of those selected by Victorian amateur artists - landscapes, natural history studies, portraits, narrative scenes and religious themes. Many are direct copies of engravings found in contemporary books and journals. The collection is shown to have contained portraits of the insane by a Crichton patient commissioned by Browne. The majority of the collection is presented as an example of 'sane' productivity by the insane. Browne's interest in art continued after his appointment as Commissioner in Lunacy for Scotland in 1857. His later career afforded him an opportunity to visit other Scottish asylums where he collected samples of patient art. Art as an activity for patients continued at Crichton and works produced there after 1857 were also added to his collection. Browne's promotion of moral treatment through the arts can be viewed as a forerunner of more recent developments in health care provision. The Crichton art collection is a testament to Browne's commitment to moral treatment, his dedication to patient care and his belief in the therapeutic powers of art.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Advisers: Malcolm Nicolson; Alison Mackenzie; Frank O'Hagan
Keywords: Science history, Art history
Date of Award: 2007
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2007-71009
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 09 May 2019 14:28
Last Modified: 09 May 2019 14:28
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/71009

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