About Migraine Art
About the Collection
The Migraine art collection contains nearly six hundred pieces of original artwork.
Migraine, and particularly the visual disturbances associated with the aura stage of the condition, has inspired many artists through the centuries. The Migraine Art Collection contains a wealth of modern, everyday, expressions of life with migraine. The artists come from every walk of life; some are professional, while others are amateurs who profess to have ‘no experience in drawing’. The collection contains works by both adults and children and depicts a variety of subjects including: the visual disturbances associated with aura; the pain and suffering experienced during an attack; and the effect migraine has on everyday life. The collection is the subject of the final chapter in Katherine Foxhall’s Migraine: A History (2019).
Most of the collection of art held by the charity Migraine Action was created in response to the ‘Migraine Art’ competitions organised between 1980 and 1987. These competitions were co-sponsored by the then British Migraine Association and WB Pharmaceuticals, a sister company of Boehringer Ingelheim, and were the brain child of Derek Robinson and Peter Wilson (MBE). Robinson was interested in the potential of using the artwork to promote the medical products of WB Pharmaceuticals. Meanwhile, as Founder-President of the British Migraine Association Wilson wanted to promote awareness of the charity. He also wished to use the artwork to educate and inform the public and medical professionals about the symptoms and consequences of migraine. This rationale for launching the competition was expressed in his first call for contributions (Aug. 1980):
“If this competition alerts just a few hundred more people into a realistic understanding of what migraine means in terms of astronomical human suffering then it will have been worthwhile.”
The entries in the First Migraine Art Competition were shown at the City of London Migraine Clinic in July 1981. The competition was something of a publicity coup and prizes were awarded by Dame Vera Lynn. Following the success of the first exhibition, and its subsequent national tour, further Migraine Art Competitions were organised. A second was held in 1982, a third in 1984, and a fourth in 1987. These also met with great success and included entries sent in from around the world. The Migraine Action Association retains over 500 pieces from the original competitions and has an interest in new artist expressions of the experience of migraine. Some of these more recent contributions to the collection may also be viewed on this site.
The collection represents the largest repository of migraine art yet assembled, and it has attracted the interest of journalists, scientists and historians. The artwork frequently appears in medical journals and has contributed to a wider understanding of the condition. Since the 1980s the Migraine Art Collection has been exhibited internationally at both art galleries and academic conferences. In 1991 it was displayed at the Exploratorium in San Francisco and more recently in 2004 it was exhibited in Skein, Norway. Building on the aims and principles espoused by Peter Wilson in 1980, it is hoped the digitisation of the collection,a nd its subsequent acquisition by the Wellcome Library, will continue to enhance the understanding of migraine and perhaps inspire a new generation of migraine artists.