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8th self-portrait.

  • Charnley, Bryan, 1949-1991
14 May 1991
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Bryan Charnley Self-portraits.
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About this work

Also known as

Eighth self-portrait.


14 May 1991.

Physical description

1 painting : oil on canvas ; 50.9 x 51.1 cm

Biographical note

Charnley's diary entry reads: "The ego splitting like a cancer cell as it comes under attack. A gory mess. The Roman soldiers leg expresses my fear of the Mafia who maintain their tyranny by attaching great importance to the sanctity of a woman's good health and good name and thus get a foot in the door for murder and organised crime. I aslo feel Rome was the real decider and actually crucified the Christ. My ego is being cruxified. My feelings, my Oedipus complex is summed up by the leg of an Italian. Italians are very uptight about their daughters and I injusred one through my ignorance of soccial mores. The girl, who broke her back in a suicide attempt, was not an Italian but if she had been I expect I would have been brutally and effectively dealt with. Thus the Roman leg generates anxiety. i am on the wrong side anyway and cannot hope for anything but total defeat as the sacred cow must never die. I am a target with no hope of victory only total humiliation. I completely acquiesce to this but am still deeply hurt all the time. "
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. 8th self-portrait. [Oil on canvas]. Wellcome Collection no. 3049694i

References note

Charnley, J. (2018). Bryan Charnley: art and adversity, page 176.

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 14.5.91 on recto. Numbered 8 on verso.

Ownership note

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


  • English

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