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2nd self-portrait.

Charnley, Bryan, (1949-1991)
20 April 1991

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About this work

Also known as

Second self-portrait.


Head and shoulder portrait of Bryan Charnley, with a large rabbit ear behind his right ear and wavy lines radiating from his head.


20 April 1991.

Physical description

1 painting : oil on canvas ; 96.5 x 51 cm

Biographical note

Charnley's diary entry reads "Cut back to one 3mg. tablet of Depixol with Temazepam tablets to get some sleep. Very Paranoid. The person upstairs was reading my mind and speaking to me to keep me in a sort of ego crucifixion. I felt this was because I was discharging very strong vibrations which could easily be interpreted. I tried to express this in the paintings. The large rabbit ear because I was confused and extremely sensitive to human voices, I felt like a wild animal. I also felt I was being read generally by ESP. I had cut back to one tablet of Depixol on 17th April 1991 and was now just beginning to feel the dramatic effects of such a sudden withdrawl."
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. 2nd self-portrait. [Oil on canvas]. Wellcome Collection: Library no. 3049688i

Publications note

Charnley, J. (2018). Bryan Charnley: art and adversity, page 174.

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 20.4.91 on recto. Numbered 2 on verso.


  • English

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