Art as Healing at Bethlem Gallery

A Bethlem Gallery exhibition showcasing work from the Adamson Collection 12 February – 7 March 2014

The Bethlem Gallery is taking part in the Adamson Festival, the first major review of Edward Adamson’s collection and work since his death in 1996.
“The important thing is the art! You see, it’s ‘therapeutic’ for patients to walk across the hospital grounds to get to the studio. If they’re going to sit in a group of patients, it’s therapeutic. But the great thing is the actual art they are producing. The mere fact they put brush to paper and… paint.” – Edward Adamson

Edward Adamson was the first artist to be employed by the NHS and he worked at Netherne, the former long-stay mental hospital based in Surrey, from 1946 until his retirement in 1981. Often referred to as ‘the father of art therapy’, he believed that artists – and only artists – could heal people in psychological crisis by letting them express themselves freely with art, and without interpretation from others. Adamson spent his life exploring this idea, working with hundreds of people living in Netherne. By the time Adamson left the hospital, he had set up a gallery and five studios. He treasured and collected the paintings, drawings, ceramics and other art objects made by the patients. He exhibited them all over the world from the mid 1940s to the 1990, believing strongly that the art should be shared in order to educate clinicians and the public about mental health disorders.

‘Art as Healing’ will include a selection of drawings, paintings ceramics, sculptures and works on flint and bone from the Adamson Collection’s vast archive of over 5000 works. The work on show at the Bethlem Gallery has made a remarkable journey. Created at Netherne Hospital, rescued for the first time in 1981 on Adamson’s retirement by Miriam Rothschild to a medieval barn on her estate, then moving again on Adamson’s death to Lambeth Hospital where it has been for the past 15 years. Finally, the recent migration of the majority of the collection’s drawings and paintings to the Wellcome Library has inspired the forthcoming Adamson Festival celebrations.
When donated by the Adamson Collection Trust (ACT) this will be the largest collection of drawings and paintings received by the Wellcome Library since the death of founder Sir Henry Wellcome in 1936. The donation will also include much of the history and activity around the collection such as Adamson’s papers, photographs and ACT committee papers form the Edward Adamson Archive.
Bethlem Gallery is a fitting place to celebrate this body of work. The gallery, museum and creative studios based within the occupational therapy department at Bethlem continue to work in the spirit of Edward Adamson’s beliefs. As part of the exhibition the gallery and studios will stage a ‘reenactment’ of Adamson’s studio, opening up reflection on his values and practice.

‘Art as Healing’ exhibition is part of a wider programme of events comprising the Adamson Festival. The festival marks 30 years since the publication of Edward Adamson’s book ‘Art As Healing’ and celebrates Adamson’s approach and practice.Nearly lost, the Adamson Collection is being rediscovered as a significant collection, unique in the histories of art therapy, of the reforming psychiatry of the 1950s and 1960s, of British Jungians and of outsider art.
Other Edward Adamson Festival events:
The Bethlem Museum, ‘Edward Adamson & William Kurelek: Two Artists of the Mind’ exhibition. 12 February – 5 July Canadian born William Kurelek (1927–1977) was a patient at the Maudsley Hospital in his twenties. He was transferred to Netherne in 1953 to paint with Edward Adamson for 14 months. Kurelek gave the Adamson Collection three major paintings created during his time at Netherne.
The UK premiere of ‘Kurelek: the Maze’. Screening at the Maudsley Learning Centre on 13th February followed by panel discussion and reception.
Maudsley Long Gallery ‘The Adamson Journey’ 13 Feb – 1 May 2014 Photographic reproductions of a selection of the collection’s paintings and drawings, produced by the Wellcome Library as a gift to the hospital for future permanent exhibition.
There are a number of educational and academic events at the Maudsley Learning Centre and the Institute of Psychiatry during the Adamson Festival.
Dr David O’Flynn, the Chair of the Adamson Collection Trust and Director of the festival, is available for interview.
For more information please contact Lucy Owen on 07930 338 183 or
Opening times:
12 February, 3 – 6pm 13 February – 7 March Wed – Friday, 11am – 6pm
Gallery and Museum also open Saturdays 15 February and 1 March. Join us for talks and
acitivites 2 – 4pm.
Address: The Bethlem Gallery, Bethlem Royal Hospital Monks Orchard Road, Beckenham, Kent BR3 3BX
Travel: Nearest British Rail: Eden Park / East Croydon

One Comment

  1. Would love to get to this fascinating exhibition but won’t be able to- am sharing anyway as I’m sure many people would be interested. Thanks for this lovely post and best wishes, Roberta

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