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 Richard Lachman  (1928 - 2010)

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Lived/Active: Washington      Known for: abstraction-mental illness subjects

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Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Richard Lachman (1928-2010)

The following, submitted November, 2003 and updated August 2010, is by James Kadlec, M.D., Bainbridge Island, Washington.  Kadlec writes of Lachman:  "I believe him to be one of the more significant US artists in relationship with mental illness.  He has been exhibited frequently in conjunction with the World Psychiatric Association."

Raised by parents with a strong interest in the visual arts, Richard Lachman had a mother who was in charge of the docent program for the Seattle Art Museum for many years.  Receiving an informal education in art history, composition, and perspective from his mother, he became knowledgeable in the visual arts.  While some of his knowledge was applied to his families diamond business, he did not begin to create images until the occurrence of a major tragedy in his life.

On a business trip to San Francisco in 1965 he received a skull and cervical spine injury from a falling metal pipe at a hotel where he was staying.  As a result of his injury he suffered pain and seizures, which were medically controlled, but eventually led to drug addiction complicated by psychosis which was induced by an adverse drug reaction.

With deterioration of his mental status, Richard Lachman became completely dysfunctional, and his affluent family had him committed to psychiatric institutions.  He was non-compliant during these admissions, leaving as soon as possible.  It was not until he was involuntarily committed to a state hospital for the most seriously ill patients by the court that he received the long-term care necessary to return him to mental wellness.  It was during these admissions that Richard Lachman used his extensive knowledge of art and its creation to aid in his own recovery.

He began using art as an expressive medium, creating many powerful images.  Many of these artworks he would destroy in a rage.  However, as he improved mentally, he was assigned to teach art to other hospitalized patients, developing an embryonal art therapy program.

After almost ten years of psychiatric hospitalizations, Richard Lachman recovered fully from his drug reaction and addiction.  Upon release from the hospital, he continued to support himself with commercial and fine art.  After his release, he wrote several articles on mental illness and art for the Bellevue Journal American.  Although not one of the ultimate recipients, he was nominated by the newspaper for a Pulitzer Prize.

Richard Lachman has been represented by galleries in Seattle, Bellevue, New York, and Milan.  He was the subject of several regional television interviews in Seattle, and featured by the Tacoma News Tribune.  He received a medal in international art competition in Avignon, France.  The Seattle Times art critic Lou Guzzo documented Richard Lachman's artistic biography in the publication When Did I Die? (the title taken from Richard Lachmans most well known image).  In a review of one of his shows, Allison Cerf Southwick wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Lachmans paintings, like the artist himself, have come of age and both have been touched by greatness."

His work was included by the World Psychiatric Association in their 50th anniversary art exhibition and publication Psyche und Kunst (Psyche and art) 2000, and one of his works is currently used as a logo for this 140,000 member organization.   Some of his images were included in the exhibition and book Human Art Project, Yokohama 2002, and are also included in the book Art Against Stigma by Drs. Sartorius and Thomashoff (2003).  Some of his images are included in a scheduled exhibition in St. Petersburg, Russia during 2003.

For approximately 30 years after his release from mental hospitals, Richard Lachman continued to work in the visual arts, creating over three-thousand images.  His art is found in numerous private and museum collections in Europe and North America.  They include the sharply contrasting styles of images created during mental illness as opposed to mental wellness.

Richard Lachman created images that continue to evoke a great deal of emotion.  The range of his work provides an extraordinary artistic contrast between his long mental illness, and subsequent recovery.

A number of Lachman's works were exhibited in New York in 2004 for members of the World Psychiatric and American Psychiatric Association members at the 2004 American Psychiatric Association meeting.

Following are exhibition in 2005, which included the work of Richard Lachman in Vienna, The World Psychiatric Association planned exhibitions in Carracas, Istanbul, Lima and Melbourne during 2006 which will also included his work.  These exhibitions were curated by DDr. Hans-Otto Thomashoff, President of the section on Art and Psychiatry.  Also Mr. Lachmans' work has been shown at Psychatric meetings in Cairo as well as Tunisia in 2005.

Richard Richard M. Lachman died on July 11, 2010 in Gig Harbor, Washington.


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Artist's Statement and excerpted biography from the artist's website: http://www.wideglide.com/lachman/bio.html

"Five thousand years of ignorance have stigmatized the mentally ill so severely that even today in this Age of Enlightenment complete recovery from this illness is virtually impossible.  Despite the severity of my own illness I found it difficult to identify with my fellow inmates on that first unforgettable nightmare that was my first 24 hours on the locked ward.  I was struck more painfully than any physical blow I have ever been dealt by the thought that I was one of 'them'...the crazies that most people only read about or see in the movies and television.  At that very moment of truth I was standing before a sink in the lavatory.  At first I didn't recognize the emaciated face that stared back at me from the mirror above the sink.  And then came recognition and with it a towering rage.  I picked up a wedge of soap that was perched on the edge of the scarred porcelain bowl.  Without thinking I swiftly drew a skull around my own image with the wet substance that crumbled between the pressure of my fingers and the glass.  I added a solitary tear and scrawled the words, WHEN DID I DIE? below the weeping skull. Later that same day I used a marking pen to duplicate the self-portrait on a section of paper towel.  That sketch, the first to reflect my own painful illness, was to become the foundation of my first painting."

Richard M. Lachman

The biography of a man who succeeded in producing the most incredible and powerful collection of art works on the subject of mental illness ever created by an artist - an amazing series of paintings, drawings, collages, and "sculptured portraits" numbering in the thousands... A sometimes ferocious, sometimes gentle, but always a meticulously blended construction of life forms and mind-forms captured on canvas or paper by an artist who literally painted his way out of hell. A man with no training as an artist...or for that matter no thought of becoming an artist as he approached the mid-years of his own unbelievable true-life story.

At eight o'clock on the morning of February 23, 1965, Richard Lachman, a 36-year-old business executive, stepped into the corridor of San Francisco's renowned St. Francis Hotel and closed the door of his suite behind him.  He did not know that he was also closing the door on the comfortable life that he had always known, that he would not reach the elevators, nor a round of meetings with the staff of his Oakland office, scheduled before his flight North to his Seattle home later in the day.  As he rounded a corner in the hallway he was confronted by an iron pipe and plank scaffold that had been erected for the installation of a new overhead sprinkling system.  Stepping aside to avoid the structure, his heel caught on the edge of the protective canvas that had been laid over the carpet.  The slight tug on the canvas jarred the scaffold enough to cause a short length of iron pipe to roll from the top plank, striking Lachman on the back of his head and shoulders, hard enough to fracture his seventh cervical vertebra.  In that instant he was catapulted into a nightmare that was to last nearly two decades, a nightmare of jail cells and courtrooms, medical emergency rooms and mental hospitals, a violent world of broken minds and broken bodies, a world previously unimaginable in the ordered life of Richard Lachman.

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