Two exhibitions exploring women’s mental health from the 19th century to the present day open in the new year.
Bethlem Museum of the Mind and Bethlem Gallery present The Four Ages of Woman and Transitions.
The Four Ages of Woman at Bethlem Museum of the Mind in Monks Orchard Road, Beckenham presents diverse representations of women’s mental health and life experiences across childhood, youth, middle age and old age.
The exhibition includes more than 30 works by 19 artists including Madge Gill, Anna Kavan, Bibi Herrera, Imma Maddox and Cynthia Pell, selected from the museum’s extensive collection, and key works on loan.
At Bethlem Gallery, contemporary artists Esther Maxwell-Orumbie and Sarah Carpenter have been working with service users and staff of the Mother and Baby Unit at Bethlem Royal Hospital on Transitions, an exhibition looking at identity and the everyday, framed by the complex challenges experienced during the transition to motherhood.
The Four Ages of Woman is punctuated by a series of illustrations of women suffering and recovering from mental illness at different life stages, commissioned by the Victorian physician Sir Alexander Morison.
Appointed to Bethlem Royal Hospital in 1835, Morison believed that it was possible to diagnose mental illness by reference to facial features, expressions and body language, which he organised into four broad categories: Mania, Monomania, Dementia and Idiocy.
Transitions and Four Ages of Woman at Bethlem Gallery and Bethlem Museum of the Mind are two independent yet connected exhibitions presented on one site at Bethlem Royal Hospital.
Each institution produces and presents a unique programme while occasionally collaborating on exhibitions to explore subjects of common interest, from contemporary and historic perspectives.