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4th self-portrait.

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

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About this work

Also known as

Fourth self-portrait.


Outline of a head, divided in half, the top depicting the brain, the lower half shows a nose and mouth, smoking a pipe.


24 April 1991.

Physical description

1 painting : oil on canvas ; 51 x 51 cm

Biographical note

Charnley's diary entry reads: "Why miss a golden opportunity to describe through paint total mental disintegration? Painted the day after the last portrait, the horns of E.S.P. are supposed to function as mouths. The total lack of concentration meant a graffitti effects again. The spots on the brain are real blood to try and get over the mental pain I was experiencing... Still on only one tablet of Depixol and sleeping pills (Temazepam) but know I cannot go on much longer."
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. 4th self-portrait. [Oil on canvas]. Wellcome Collection: Library no. 3049690i

Publications note

Charnley, J. (2018). Bryan Charnley: art and adversity, page 175.

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 24/4/91 on recto. Numbered 4 on verso.


  • English

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