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12th self-portrait.

  • Charnley, Bryan, 1949-1991
8 June 1991
Part of
Bryan Charnley Self-portraits.
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About this work

Also known as

Twelfth self-portrait.


8 June 1991.

Physical description

1 painting : oil on canvas ; 51 x 51.1 cm

Biographical note

Charnley's diary entry reads: "The soldier's legs seem to be central to my condition. I attempted to suggest that they radiated out and became less potent as they departed from my brain. I found that this idea that they sort of dissapated as they removed from the core, comforting. The flaming darts of E.S.P. made vocal and right at the point of the birth of thought too in this case. The white parts represent my thoughts. The triangles meet to produce the discharge of rational thought that feels like truth and a flaming dart from someone pierces it at inception. The spider's legs represent inhibition, social and otherwise. Is this the truth of my condition? I was to find out otherwise but it was certainly part of the truth"
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.


Bryan Charnley. 1991. 12th self-portrait. [Oil on canvas]. Wellcome Collection: Library no. 3049697i

References note

Charnley, J. (2018). Bryan Charnley: art and adversity, page 178.

Exhibitions note

Exhibited in ‘Bryan Charnley self-portraits: face to face with schizophrenia’ at the National Portrait Gallery, London, 21 July – 3 December 1995.


Title provided by the Estate of Bryan Charnley.
Dated 8.6.91 on recto. Numbered 12 on verso.

Ownership note

Purchased by Wellcome Collection in 2018 from the Estate of Bryan Charnley.


  • English

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