Kurt Beringer's 1927 book Der Meskalinrausch presented his study of the effects of injected mescaline hydrochloride on 32 human subjects. Subject #8 was a fine arts painter, but he did not do art during his session. However, some of Beringer's subjects did illustrate their written descriptions of their mescaline experiences. These subjects did not have any artistic training, but their aesthetically unimpressive sketches were the first publication of mescaline's visual imagery uninfluenced by the religious programming of Native American cacti ceremonies.
In 1947, Werner Stoll published a small sketch of an LSD-induced "tesselloptic hallucination" in the first article about the psychological effects of LSD.
Giuseppe Tonini and C. Montanari worked at the Ospedale Psichiatrico "L. Lolli" in Imola, Italy. In 1955 they administered drugs to an artist who worked in the hospital's occupational therapy department. The two researchers adhered to the psychotomimetic paradigm, and described their subject as a having a normal but "slightly primitive" mind. They asked the artist to paint during his sessions with mescaline, LSD, lysergic acid monoethylamide (LAE 32), as well as with methedrine (both alone and in combination with either mescaline or LSD). He produced paintings during all sessions except the one on LAE-32. The doctors published seven of his paintings of flowers in vases and a landscape, along with a comparison drawing by a schizophrenic. They concluded, "The pictures do not contain any new elements in the creative sense, but reflect psycho-pathological manifestations of the type observed in schizophrenia" (emphasis in the original; Tonini & Montanari 1955). The researchers believed the drawings expressed the differences in the mental states elicited by the different drugs. Although the pictures did look different from each other, it would not have been possible to pick out which picture was painted in an ordinary state of consciousness.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Sandoz distributed synthetic psilocybin at no cost to European and North American scientists. Consequently, there was a small amount of psilocybin-inspired art before the mid-1970s, when the dissemination of Psilocybe cubensis cultivation methods made "shroom art" accessible to the masses.
Frank Barron was first to bring psychedelics to the attention of Timothy Leary by advising him to investigate psilocybin. Barron participated in the early stages of Leary's psilocybin research at Harvard. He published two excerpts from accounts written by artists who were their subjects.
In his book detailing psychedelic experiments conducted by the U.S. Army at the Edgewood Arsenal, Dr. James Ketchum published four pictures by an experimental subject who was administered EA 2233 in late 1961. EA 2233 was a mixture of eight stereoisomers of THC with a heptyl (seven-carbon) side chain that had been invented by chemist Harry Pars. Ketchum explained, "At intervals during the experiment subjects were required to "Draw-a-Man", a commonly used projective test, indicating distortion of self image as well as the physical and mental capacity to create a coherent representation of the human body" (Ketchum 2006).
In Mexico City in 1971 there was a large exhibit of dozens of paintings and drawings produced by psychiatric patients under the influence of LSD and other hallucinogens. Most of the art came from Eastern Europe where psychedelic psychotherapy was still allowed. Little or none was from the United States, as by then therapists were prohibited from administering psychedelics to patients. This exhibit was displayed at the Museum of Anthropology in connection with the Fifth World Congress of Psychiatry. The Congress, which in various years had presentations on psychedelic psychotherapy, convened at a conference center near the museum.
In 1979 Richard Evans Schultes and Albert Hofmann published pictures of LSD art by both psychiatric patients and normal subjects, in their coffee table book Plants of the Gods: Origins of Hallucinogenic Use.
Timothy Leary and John Lilly decorated their homes with psychedelic paintings given to them by admirers, but these collections apparently dissipated after their deaths. No substantial collections of psychedelic fine art--either privately owned or in museums--have come to the attention of the public. However, various psychedelic researchers accumulated personal collections of art produced by patients.
Stanislav Grof, M.D., collected art during his practice of LSD psychotherapy in Prague and later at the Spring Grove State Hospital and the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center. His 1980 textbook LSD Psychotherapy contains 52 black and white plates and 41 color plates . These pictures included those created by patients undergoing psychedelic therapy, as well as those by Grof himself depicting the types of experiences catalyzed by psychedelics, plus a drawing by Grof of dream imagery from his own therapy while in psychoanalytic training. Further illustrations are found in Grof's other books.
Richard Yensen, M.D., also worked at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center. He has a collection that "is from patients in MDA therapy and consists of mandalas drawn at our request with oil pastels" (Yensen 2004).
Betty Eisner collected some paintings produced by her patients during psychedelic therapy. Creating art was part of her treatment protocol from 1957 to 1964 (Eisner 2005).
Salvador Roquet collected art by the patients at his psychedelic psychotherapy clinic in Mexico City from the 1960s through the 1980s. Some of his patients were artists, including Pedro Alatriste, Rodolfo Aguirre Tinoco, and Fred de Keijzer (Clark 1977, cited by Krippner 1980). Dr. Yensen regarded the art by de Keijzer--a Mexican of Dutch ancestry--as particularly notable, and Aguirre Tinoco is still active, having participated in a 2002 group show at Salón de la Plástica Mexicana.
In 1962 underground LSD distribution began in the United States. Consequently, psychedelic art rapidly developed outside of clinical experiments and merged with Cannabis-inspired art. Since the early 20th century, some indigenous hallucinogen-using artists have employed modern painting materials and European artistic conventions such as shading and perspective, and distribution to an international market. In the 1990s, non-native artists began experiencing visionary plants in traditional shamanic settings. Contemporary psychedelic art and indigenous hallucinogen-inspired art will undoubtedly continue to converge in the 21st century.