Watercolor on paper, 6 3/4 x 6 1/8 inches
Ted Diamond (American 1938-1986) was the creator of strange and wonderful gouache paintings on paper who, diagnosed with schizophrenia, spent most of his adult life obsessed with death, eventually taking his own life in 1985 at forty-seven years of age. Ranging from 3 x 4 inches to 18 x 24 inches, some of the works are signed, some dated, all executed in a fecund twenty-year period between 1964 and 1984 when Diamond was off and on living in the psychiatric ward of Charles River Hospital, Boston. Although he studied at The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Diamond neither enjoyed conventional education, nor developed a professional career, spending much of his life obsessed by demons.
After his suicide on May 8, 1986, a group of a few hundred works that had been mounted in notebooks and kept in his room were found by a dear friend who kept them safe for over 30 years. Although I had met Ted a few times in the mid 1960s, and purchased two self-portraits in 1966 in Boston, I was not prepared for the nearly overwhelming trove of heads, figures, fragmented ghostly images, groups in interiors, intense self-portraits, densely populated group portraits, and patients on the psych ward. His therapist, Genie Lindsay, acquired one of these gouaches in the course of his treatment.
The energy of the paintings, ranging from only 3 x 4 inches to 18 x 24 inches, results from deft handling and powerful scale beyond their humble size. They recall James Ensor’s visions and Francis Bacon’s painterliness; their emotional content is expressed with keen draughtsmanship and coloristic mastery, reflections of a neurotic personality. A few sheets seem to be almost complete abstractions; but even these display the fever of madness. They have what curator emeritus of the Achenbach Foundation, Robert Flynn Johnson, calls a “Jazz” spirit, a mid-60s bohemianism, an “Outsider’s’” vision in the deepest sense.
These arresting works of an “Outsider” have until this moment never been seen out of the notebooks in which they had been carefully saved for over 50 years.