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Out of sight, out of mind : the visual archive of asylum artist-patient William Bartholomew, 1853-1877 Powell, Kathryn

Abstract

This paper examines the visual archive of the patient-artist William Bartholomew during his care at the Royal Crichton Institution and Southern Counties Asylum in Scotland during the middle of the nineteenth century. The asylums were overseen by Medical Superintendent W.A.F. Browne who was guided by contemporary practices of “moral therapy” and had a particular interest in art practice as part of that therapy. In this project I will examine the relationship between Bartholomew, the written record, art production, and Browne’s care, from multiple perspectives around the theme of inside and outside-ness. I situate my approach in conversation with Roy Porter’s appeal for an analysis of the two-way encounter between doctor and patient in the history of medicine. I argue that examples of patient experience and patient produced sources can inform historical understandings of treatment practices and also create opportunities for the archive and the ethics of medical case records to be visible in new ways. Bartholomew’s art reveals the negotiation between the internal and external in Browne’s phrenological conceptualization of moral therapy; this was a view that prioritized engagement between the inner mind and the outside world through art. Furthermore, in depicting his fellow patients, I argue that we can see Bartholomew’s relationship to his subjects shift as he took on a commission from Browne to create educational physiognomic images. These works required the negotiation of a visual language that drew connections between the inner moral and mental state and the external characteristics of the face. Bartholomew’s collection of images therefore offers a complicated instance of the patient’s gaze, which pushes against the rigidity of medical authority in an effort to situate the patient more clearly in Porter’s two-way encounter.

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