Art, power, and the asylum: Adamson, healing, and the Collection
27 April 2018
Editor of The Lancet Psychiatry Niall Boyce is joined by David O'Flynn, Solomon Szekir-Papasavva, and Chloe Trainor to discuss this new essay on The Adamson Collection...
Edward Adamson (1911–96) was a British artist, instrumental in the postwar reiteration of art and mental health. He was the first artist to be employed by the National Health Service in 1948, pioneering the art studio and art therapy with his collaborator John Timlin (born 1930).
In the 1960s, Adamson was the first chair of the British Association of Art Therapists, and started the first art therapy training course in the UK. In the past 8 years, his work at Netherne longstay mental hospital has been rediscovered and reevaluated.
A body of artworks created in Adamson’s studios by those compelled to live at Netherne, the Adamson Collection, has emerged as one of Britain’s important collections of asylum art.
The history of the Collection
Out of the crowded asylums of Europe in the early 1920s, the optimism of their creation lost, there emerged a new gaze on art. Not a school or an avant-garde movement, but rather a point of view that has extended the territory of what is art as much as Marcel Duchamp's gesture of putting a signed urinal in an art gallery (Fountain, 1917).
In 1921, the psychiatrist Walter Morgenthaler wrote A Psychiatric Patient as Artist on the work of Swiss asylum patient Adolf Wölfli, and, in 1922, Hans Prinzhorn published The Artistry of the Mentally Insane, a study of “ten schizophrenic masters” (Prinzhorn was an art historian before he became a psychiatrist)...
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