Art therapy is a relatively young therapeutic discipline. It first began around the mid-20th century, arising independently in English-speaking and European countries. In England as in the U.S., the roots of art therapy lie mainly in art education, the practice of art, and developmental psychology. According to David Edwards, an art therapist in Britain, “(n)umerous and often conflicting definitions of art therapy have been advanced since the term, and later the profession, first emerged in the late 1940s (Waller and Gilroy, 1978).” Edwards states, “in the UK, the artist Adrian Hill is generally acknowledged to have been the first person to use the term ‘art therapy’ to describe the therapeutic application of image making. For Hill, who had discovered the therapeutic benefits of drawing and painting while recovering from tuberculosis, the value of art therapy lay in ‘completely engrossing the mind (as well as the fingers) … [and in] releasing the creative energy of the frequently inhibited patient’ (Hill, 1948: 101–102). This, Hill suggested, enabled the patient to ‘build up a strong defence against his misfortunes’ (Hill, 1948: 103).” Art therapy began when Hill, recovering from tuberculosis in a sanatorium, suggested artistic work to his fellow inpatients. That began his artistic work with patients, which was documented in 1945 in his book, Art Versus Illness.
Edward Adamson was “the father of art therapy in Britain”.
The artist Edward Adamson (1911-1996), recently demobilised after WW2, joined Adrian Hill to extend Hill’s work to the British long stay mental hospitals. Adamson started his work at Netherne Hospital in Surrey in 1946 and continued until his retirement in 1981. Adamson established an open art studio, allowing people to come and paint – a radical act when those detained in the 'asylums' were living in bleak conditions, profoundly excluded from society, with minimum dignity, autonomy, or even personal possessions. He continued to...