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13th self-portrait.

Charnley, Bryan, (1949-1991)
13 June 1991

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About this work

Also known as

Thirteenth self-portrait.


13 June 1991.

Physical description

1 painting : oil on canvas ; 50.5 x 50.3 cm

Biographical note

Charnley's diary entry reads: "People crane their necks to try and appreciate technique, raving about Picasso's while missing the main point of my paintings which is poetic discharge via symbols... The eggs have been emptied like a head stripped of its contents. It has nothing left in it, no more secrets, they went to satisfy somebody's appetite, somebody that has power over me. They enjoyed every tasy mouthful. Two egg? It was the same yesterday. Needless to say I feel suicidal so I painted in Van Gogh's crows from his final suicide picture of teh wheat field. E.S.P. horns, voices as mouths grinning. Birds come from eggs so the crows can be like my thoughts flying away. All this sort of gossip increases my fears of telepathy and is the main reason I feel suicidal. Still on 1 1/2 tabs Depixol (3mg. each). On 24th may cut out antidepressant Triptysol, completely."
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. 13th Self-portrait. [Oil on canvas]. Wellcome Collection: Library no. 3049698i

Publications note

Charnley, J. (2018). Bryan Charnley: art and adversity, page 178.

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 13.6.91 on recto. Numbered 13 on verso.


  • English

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