Exhibition: Brilliant Visions: Mescaline, Art, Psychiatry

This exhibition runs from Wed, 1st May 2019 to Fri, 30th Aug 2019. See all dates

This event runs over several days/weeks. Dates include:

This exhibition has finished.

Coronavirus: Events may be cancelled and venues closed at short notice, you are advised to check on their websites before making a trip.

Cost: Free of Charge

Brilliant Visions presents drawings and paintings by Surrealist artists who took part in the Guttman-Maclay mescaline experiments of the 1930s. Julian Trevelyan, Basil Beaumont and Herbrand Williams are among the artists featured next to archival materials and additional artworks from the Bethlem Museum’s collection.

Co-curated by Mike Jay, author of ‘Mescaline: A Global History of the First Psychedelic’ and Kate Tiernan, this exhibition provides an insight into the first era of research into psychedelics and mental states.

In the 1930s two psychiatrists at the Maudsley Hospital, Dr Eric Guttman and Dr Walter Maclay, encouraged patients suffering from schizophrenia to make art in an attempt to ‘explain themselves’. However, they noted that only a minority of patients had the capacity to translate their hallucinations into pictorial form. These findings led the doctors to invite professional artists from the Surrealist movement to take part in experiments involving the drug mescaline, as it was believed to produce an ‘experimental psychosis’. For the Surrealist artists, it was an opportunity to delve into the irrational, unconscious mind to find creative inspiration. The artistic depictions of the hallucinations – which ranged from ecstatic to terrifying – were understood by the psychiatrists as illustrations of psychopathic states, and used as tools for analysis and classification.

Contact and Booking Details

More information at this website.

No need to book tickets - just turn up on the day.


Bethlem Museum of the Mind,

Bethlem Royal Hospital, Monks Orchard Road, Beckenham, Kent,

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