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Nail schizophrene.

Charnley, Bryan, (1949-1991)

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About this work


Outline of a head bound tightly in a headscarf and filled with imagery, including naked bodies with wrapped heads being struck by a hammer, burning cigarettes, heads, and a piano engulfed in a wave.



Physical description

1 painting : oil on canvas ; 65.9 x66.4 cm

Biographical note

Bryan Charnley (1949-1991) was a British artist whose work illustrates his experiences of schizophrenia. In 1969 he enrolled on a BA in sculpture at the Central School of Art and Design, but left due to a breakdown. He started painting in 1978, and from the late 1980s he began to get recognition for his work, with Bethlem Royal Hospital purchasing four of his paintings. From 1987 to his death he kept a dream diary as a way of understanding his own mind. In March 1991 he decided to experiment with his medication and embarked on a series of self-portraits, a series which exposed his mental illness. The series was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, London, in 1995. He took his own life in July 1991.


Title from printed label on verso of painting.
Signed BJC in bottom right corner of recto.
Charnley's paintings of bound heads are described by James Charnley as 'the bondage paintings'.

Publications note

Charnley, J. (2018). Bryan Charnley: art and adversity, pages 113-114.


Bryan Charnley. 1986. Nail schizophrene. [Oil on canvas]. Wellcome Collection: Library no. 3049675i



  • English

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