Edward Adamson, British art therapy pioneer

Picture1Edward Adamson

Edward Adamson (1911-1996) was a British artist, a pioneer of using art as therapy, and the creator of the Adamson Collection.

The Adamson Collection is one of the major international collections of art objects made by people who lived in European mental asylums. It holds about 5500 objects (paintings, drawings, ceramics, sculptures, and works on stone, flint and bone) created between 1946 and 1981, by people at the British long-stay mental hospital, Netherne.

The Collection is important in the histories of British asylums and postwar psychiatry, of art therapy and Jungians and of Outsider Art: encouraged and collected by an artist Edward Adamson, rather than a psychiatrist, and strongly representing  the work of women.

The Collection and SLaM

The Collection has been housed at SLaM since 1997: recently the core 2500 paintings and drawings have been moved to Wellcome Library by the Adamson Collection Trust (ACT) to ensure their physical integrity. 

There are 4 key points of intersection between the histories of the Collection and of SLaM:

  • Research: links between the Maudsley and Netherne (1930s - 1940s).
  • Artist: William Kurelek (early 1950s)
  • Location: Adamson Collection at SLaM (since 1997. During 2012 and 2013, approximately 5000 drawings and paintings will have been relocated to the Wellcome Library; the Collection's about 500 ceramics, small sculptures and other works on mixed media remain at SLAM).
  • Buildings: “Adamson Centre for Mental Health” at St. Thomas' Hospital, and the “Adamson Suite” at the ORTUS (2000 and 2013).


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