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Migraine Art Competition Collection

  • Migraine Action
  • Archives and manuscripts

Collection contents

About this work


Migraine Art Competition Collection consists of 545 paintings submitted to the four Migraine Art Competitions ran from 1980-1987.

The paintings were created by people, adults and children, who experienced migraines. They depict and describe typical signs and symptoms of the acute migraine attack. Competitors were asked to illustrate their own migraine experience on any material and any medium including crayon, charcoal, oils and watercolour. The majority of participants had no artistic background.

Majority of the paintings were submitted to the competitions in 1980s. Two were submitted in 2006 and 12 in 2010.

These paintings were created as part of a series of competitions which were open to the general public. While we know that winners names were published, there is no evidence that other entrants gave consent for their name to be made public. Prior to their transfer to Wellcome Collection, images of paintings from this collection have been used in publications, websites, and exhibitions, anonymously. In the absence of documented consent from the individuals, we use our judgement to decide whether the individual deliberately participated in making their data public, the circumstances around this, and thus whether the information can be made available by us. As a result, Wellcome Collection decided not to make the names publicly available online.



Physical description

543 paintings, 1 file



The arrangement follows the original numbering sequence created by Migraine Action. The paintings are not arranged according to date or competition. There are gaps in the numbering sequence due to missing items.

Acquisition note

Donated in October 2018.

Biographical note

The Migraine Action was a UK charity offering support and advisory information to those affected by migraines. Previously known as the British Migraine Association (until 1997).

The British Migraine Association was founded in 1958 by Peter Wilson and a small group of migraine sufferers who were concerned that migraine sufferers were not receiving the support and the treatment they needed. The Association had three main aims: to encourage and support research and investigation into migraine, its causes, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment; to gather and pass on information about treatments available for the control and relief of migraine and to facilitate an exchange of information on the subject; and to provide friendly, positive reassurance, understanding and encouragement to migraine sufferers and their families.

In the 1980s, The British Migraine Association ran four art competitions in collaboration with the Pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim. The President of the Association, Peter 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 migraines. This rationale for launching the competitions 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 competitions were open to international entrants and they ran from 1980 - 1987.

The collection was made available online at the Migraine Art website < >, now part of the UKWebArchive.

Migraine Action closed in 2018 and donated its assets to Wellcome and the Migraine Trust.

Related material

In the Wellcome Collection:

Book: Klaus Podoll and Derek Robinson,Migraine Art: The Migraine Experience from Within (Barkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2008)

Book: Katherine Foxhall, Migraine: A History (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019)

British Migraine Association / Migraine Trust archive, Reference SA/MIG

Ownership note

Transferred to Wellcome by Migraine Action.

Permanent link