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A man diagnosed as suffering from acute dementia. Lithograph, 1892, after a drawing by Alexander Johnston, 1836/1841, for Sir Alexander Morison.

Johnston, Alexander, 1815-1891.

About this work


A patient at Bethlem Hospital, Southwark, described on the verso of Johnston's drawing as "W. Williams - Bethlem/Acute dementia. Recovered", which is expanded in Morison's Physiognomy of mental diseases, 1840, pl. LXXI, as follows: "Portrait of J.W., aged 25, a painter. The cause of this man's disorder was stated to be the intemperate use of strong liquors. It commenced with incoherence in his discourse and in his actions; he was soon after reduced to a stage of apparent idiocy; fell down when placed on his feet; did not appear to comprehend the simplest question; his eyes were vacant; his regard was unsteady; he looked as if astonished. He was disposed to be obstinate, and rather mischievous; he was, however, easily restrained. He had been four months in this state when his portrait was taken."


Acute dementia.


[Edinburgh] : [publisher not identified], [1892] (Edin[bu]r[gh] : McLagan & Cumming Lith.)

Physical description

1 print : lithograph, on buff paper ; image 19 x 16.5 cm


Wellcome Library no. 38641i

Reproduction note

After a drawing in an album of portrait drawings presented to the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh in 1862 by Sir Alexander Morison (1779-1866), who inaugurated the formal teaching of psychiatry in Edinburgh in 1823. The drawings, which cover a period of over twenty years, were originally commissioned as illustrations to Morison's lectures on physiognomy as a method of psychological diagnosis. The earliest are probably the copies of drawings executed for Esquirol at the Salpêtrière asylum in Paris. In 1826, after a tour of the Paris asylums, Morison followed Esquirol's example by commissioning portraits of the insane from the miniaturist François Rochard (1798-1858). Morison resumed his commissions to Rochard in 1835, when he was appointed visiting physician to the Bethlem Hospital in London. From 1836 he employed the Scottish portrait and genre painter Alexander Johnston (1815-1891). A selection of Johnston's drawings, along with some by Rochard and copies from Esquirol, were engraved as illustrations to The physiognomy of mental diseases, 1840. About 1841 Morison began to employ Charles Gow, uncle of Andrew Carrick Gow, a Scottish portraitist, who continued to work for Morison throughout the 1840s and many of whose portraits were reproduced in Morison's Outlines of lectures, 1848 (information from the catalogue of the album, compiled by Helen Smailes, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1981)

After the drawing on fol. 77 of Morison's album


  • English


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