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The Archive of Ismond Rosen (1924-1996)

  • Rosen, Ismond, (1924-1996) MB, BCH 1946, DPM 1951, MD 1954, FRSM, Hon. FRCPsych (posthumous), Fellow Society of Portrait Sculptors
  • Archives and manuscripts
  • Online

About this work


The collection comprises material relating to all aspects of Ismond Rosen's career and interests as a psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, three editions of the book Sexual Deviation to which he contributed and which he edited, to his art work and exhibitions, television and radio contributions, his prolific writings and various autobiographical works. It is comprehensive in nature, including paper records, art work, photographic material and audio-visual media.



Physical description

119 boxes 7 oversized items 9 large boxes of patient records closed for Data Protection reasons


The collection is arranged as follows:

Section A: Personal Material of Ismond Rosen, 1956-1997

Section B: Volumes of 'Collected Papers', 1946-1994

Section C: Professional Matters, c.1941-1993

Section D: Sexual Deviation, 1950s-1997

Section E: Subjects Files, 1950s-1994

Section F: Broadcast Media Work, c.1956-1993

Section G: Writings - Professional and Non-professional Work, c.1955-1994

Section H: Autobiographical Works (unpublished), c.1971-1996

Section J: Art and the Psyche, c.1955-1994

Section K: Art Work, 1960s-1990s

Section L: Exhibitions, 1959-2010

Section M: Photographs, Negatives and Transparencies, 1950s-2001

Section N: Audio-Visual and Audio Material, 1960-c.1995

Section P: Patient Material, c.1952-1995 (Closed for Data Protection Act reasons)

Acquisition note

The material was purchased from Ruth Rosen by the Wellcome Trust in 2002 (Acc.1001 and 1004). An additional small amount of material was donated by Mrs Rosen in March 2014 (Acc.2060 and 2081) and June 2014 (Acc.2099).

Biographical note

Ismond Rosen was a psychiatrist, a distinguished psychoanalyst, an acclaimed artist and prolific writer.

Rosen was born 2 August 1924 in Johannesburg, South Africa. His family were Russian Jews who emigrated to South Africa a few years before his birth (from the United States where his father had been part of the mass immigration in the 1880s from Russia to the US). His parents became successful hoteliers. Ismond was educated at Pretoria Boys High School. He studied medicine at Witwatersrand University where he obtained his MB, BCH in 1946. As a medical student Ismond originally intended to become a plastic surgeon, driven by his sculptural talents and strong interests in palaeontology and anatomy. However, due to partial red-green colour blindness (and possibly other pressures) he had to give that up and instead switched to psychiatry. He did his house training at a community health centre in a poor district of Johannesburg, where the director was Helen Joseph who later helped found the Federation of South African Women and became a major anti-apartheid activist. Rosen also worked as a junior registrar at Weskoppies Hospital, Johannesburg, and studied psychiatric medicine at Tara Hospital, Johannesburg.

In 1951 Rosen headed to London where he was offered a post as registrar at the Maudsley Hospital, South London. Courtesy of a sympathetic Professor Aubrey Lewis, Rosen was able to defer taking up the appointment in order to travel to Europe where he wished to broaden his horizons and further his artistic skills and knowledge. In Paris he studied briefly at the Academie Julien and the Ecole des Beaux Arts where he learnt the fundamentals of carving in stone. During his European sojourn he also travelled to Nice, Florence and Rome. By 1951 Rosen had obtained from the Diploma in Psychiatric Medicine from the University of Witwaterstrand. In 1952 he returned to London to take up his senior registrar appointment (psychiatric medicine) at the Maudsley Hospital. He was to spend six years at the Maudsley leaving in 1958. In the course of this time he obtained the MD 1954. His thesis, entitled 'The Clinical Significance of Obsessional Symptoms in Schizophrenia' was based on about 50 clinical cases at the hospital (see PP/ROS/C/2 and C/3/12). His mentors at the Maudsley Hospital included esteemed psychiatrists Aubrey Lewis, Dennis Hill and Erwin Stengel. Despite these strong clinical influences Ismond separately and concurrently pursued his interest in psychoanalysis.

Rosen's involvement in the study and treatment of sexual deviation started when he was appointed to the Portman Clinic in central London (1958). The clinic was originally established in 1933 as the clinical arm of the Institute for the Study and Treatement of Delinquency (see PP/ROS/C/4). At the Portman Clinic he was involved in an early study of cross-dressing (referred to then as transvestitism). In 1960 he organised a congress at the Royal Society of Medicine on sexual deviation. As a result of the congress Rosen went on to edit a major text book on the subject, The Pathology and Treatment of Sexual Deviation, later shortened to Sexual Deviation. The first edition came out in 1964; a revised second edition was published by Oxford University Press in 1979. The third edition came out shortly after Rosen's death, in 1996. At the Portman Clinic Rosen also focussed his work on delinquency, exhibitionism and abused children and their abusers.

Shortly after being appointed to the Portman Clinic he was also appointed to the Camden Clinic (1 Dec 1958) which, some years later, amalgamated with the West End Hospital for Nervous Diseases and the Paddington Hospital, the whole becoming known as the Paddington Clinic and Day Hospital. He was consultant psychiatrist overall from 1958-1984, becoming (around 1972) and remaining for 13 years Chairman of the Paddington Clinic and Day Hospital, which was later known as the Paddington Centre for Psychotherapy (see PP/ROS/C/9). In 1967 he was appointed a Research Psychoanalyst at the Hampstead Clinic. He also practised privately as a psychoanalyst and psychiatrist from the late 1950s almost to the end of his life (see Section P). Rosen's private practice was at first based in Harley Street, London, but he later moved it to his home in Hampstead Hill Gardens .

Alongside increasing professional commitments at the Maudsley, Portman and Camden clinics, Rosen underwent personal analysis, a time-consuming part of his training as a psychoanalyst (he was in analysis for eight years commencing in the 1950s). He trained in association with Anna Freud who in London in 1947 had founded the Hampstead Child Therapy Course and Clinic (see PP/ROS/C/5). One of Rosen's early analysts was Ilse Hellmann Noach.

Rosen firmly believed in communicating to a wide audience and during his career he contributed to many radio and television productions. His media involvements included writing and presenting for television a program on dreams, Fantasies of the Night, and a documentary,The Rat Man, an authorised study of one of Freud's most publicized patients. He became involved in the television programme Lifeline with David Stafford-Clark (in which Rosen also appeared) and sex education programmes produced by BBC2's Horizon. Rosen was often called upon by the media to provide expert advice on news items with a psychological aspect. (See Section F for papers relating to some of his work in television and radio and Section N for some of the recordings).

Throughout his life Rosen was active as an artist, exhibiting from 1947 onwards. He excelled as a sculptor and in his lifetime demonstrated a mastery of widely differing materials. He also undertook pioneering work with stainless steel which demanded the application of advanced technology such as plasma arc cutting. His work was commissioned for or donated to many institutions including the Royal Society of Medicine, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Royal London Hospital, Maudsley Hospital and St Mary's Hospital. He created many sculpted heads of people in the medical profession notably Henry Maudsley, Erwin Stengel, John Hunter, Dorothy Stuart-Russell, Henry Rey and Dame Betty Patterson (see PP/ROS/M/3). Many of his sculptures remain on public display, for example his sculpted head of Dorothy Stuart-Russell, the first woman to hold the Chair of Morbid Anatomy at the London Hospital Medical School, which is on display in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

One of Rosen's most important works is the 'Holocaust Triptych' which occupied him for many years of his life and comprised three full-size abstract bronze figures. The first figure 'Revelation' depicts Jesus Christ who, as a Jew, during the Holocaust would have perished in the Nazi gas chambers; the second 'Acrosity' is a symbol of Nazi atrocity, and the third 'Echo the Survivor' represents survival, endurance and the need for universal religious tolerance and reconciliation. In the early 1980s a casting of one of the figures (pre-Triptych), Christ, the 'Revelation', was presented to the Pope by the Council of Christians and Jews and was placed in the Vatican (see PP/ROS/L/9/2). The Triptych was exhibited at St Paul's Cathedral Crypt, London, 1992-1993, and was later found a permanent home in the Heilige Kreuzkirche, Berlin, where it received its dedication at a service on 20 November 1996, on the German Protestant Church's Day of Repentance (see also PP/ROS/N/1/14). Rosen from an early date constantly drew links between, and intertwined, art work and artistic creativity with analysis of the human psyche (see notably Section J).

The 1970s for Ismond Rosen were a period of prolific creativity, creating sculptures, paintings, lithographs and etchings. Rosen's works were most notably exhibited at the John Whibley Gallery, Cork Street, London, in 1972, and in the wide-ranging 'Genesis: The Process of Creativity' at Camden Arts Centre, London, in 1974 (under the auspices of Hampstead Artists' Council). The 'Holocaust Sculptures' Exhibition, took place 10 Nov 1992-15 Mar 1993 in The Crypt, St Paul's Cathedral, London, and Rosen also exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition. In July 1995 an exhibition of sculptures and drawings was held in St Mary's Parish Church, Nottingham. A small selection of Rosen's works were exhibited at Wellcome Collection, London, Dec 2009-Mar 2010, including his stainless steel sculptures 'Civilization', 'Man and Woman' and 'Adam and Eve and the Apple'. Material relating to the exhibition of Rosen's works can be found in Section L of the PP/ROS archive.

In June 1994 Ismond was diagnosed as suffering from motor neurone disease and given less than three years to live. His reaction was to determine to complete as many projects as possible, notably his autobiography Along the Way, which was completed with the help of his wife Ruth. In his lifetime Rosen had been a prolific writer producing, in addition to innumerable professional writings, other autobiographical works titled Coincidence and Creativity, Stories of Sculpture and One Man's Covenants, of which parts of the latter two were incorporated into Along the Way in its final reincarnation. (These works are as yet unpublished but drafts and final scripts are held in Section H of the Rosen archive).

Ismond Rosen married Ruth Abromowitz, an actress and fellow South African, in 1963. They have one son and one daughter. Ismond Rosen died on 16th October 1996 at his home in Hampstead, London.

Sources and further reading
'Ismond Rosen: A Genius by any other name' Henry R. Rollin MD, FRCP, FRCPsych., Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine Vol.90, Feb 1997.
National Dictionary of Biography 2004.
Posthumous Honorary (RSM) Fellowship citation by Professor I. Kolvin (see PP/ROS/A/1/1).
Biographical material comprising PP/ROS/A/1/1.
Autobiographical material in PP/ROS/B/18.

An in-depth autobiographic interview was conducted by Professor Hugh Freeman in 1992 and was published in the Psychiatric Bulletin Vol.16 No.10, Oct 1992. (Copy held in PP/ROS/A/1/2 and A/1/3).

Copyright note

Copyright in Ismond Rosen's works is held by the Ismond Rosen Trust.

Terms of use

This collection has been partially catalogued and the catalogued part is available to library members. Some items have access restrictions which are explained in the item-level catalogue records. Requests to view uncatalogued material are considered on a case by case basis. Please contact for more details.

Finding aids

Online catalogue of Archives and Manuscripts, Wellcome Library.

Accruals note

The following is an interim description of material that has been acquired since this collection was catalogued. This description may change when cataloguing takes place in future:

The additional material donated by Ruth Rosen in 2014 includes correspondence, diaries and notebooks, slides, audio-visual material, CDs with images of Ismond's art work. The material covers 1950s-c.2009.

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