Artist Draws Nine Portraits on LSD During 1950s Research Experiment

During the 1950s, a researcher gave an artist two 50-microgram doses of LSD (each dose separated by about an hour), and then the artist was encouraged to draw pictures of the doctor who administered the drugs. Nine portraits were drawn over the space of eight hours. We still don’t know the identity of the artist. But it’s surmised that the researcher was Oscar Janiger, a University of California-Irvine psychiatrist known for his work on LSD.

The web site Live Science has Andrew Sewell, a Yale Psychiatry professor (until his recent death), on record saying: “I believe the pictures are from an experiment conducted by the psychiatrist Oscar Janiger starting in 1954 and continuing for seven years, during which time he gave LSD to over 100 professional artists and measured its effects on their artistic output and creative ability. Over 250 drawings and paintings were produced.” The goal, of course, was to investigate what happens to subjects under the influence of psychedelic drugs. During the experiment, the artist explained how he felt as he worked on each sketch. You can watch how things unfolded below (or above):

20 Minutes After First Dose. Artist Claims to Feel Normal

5IOEa - Imgur

85 Minutes After First Dose: Artist Says “I can see you clearly. I’m having a little trouble controlling this pencil.”

dyR0C - Imgur

2 hours 30 minutes after first dose. “I feel as if my consciousness is situated in the part of my body that’s now active – my hand, my elbow… my tongue.”

jyr3B - Imgur

2 hours 32 minutes: ‘I’m trying another drawing… The outline of my hand is going weird too. It’s not a very good drawing is it?”

MUu3y - Imgur

2 hours 35 minutes: Patient follows quickly with another drawing. ‘I’ll do a drawing in one flourish… without stopping… one line, no break!”

H0Uxo - Imgur

2 hours 45 minutes: Agitated patient says “I am… everything is… changed… they’re calling… your face… interwoven… who is…” He changes medium to Tempera.


4 hours 25 minutes: After taking a break, the patient changes to pen and water color. “This will be the best drawing, like the first one, only better.”

eUdua - Imgur

5 hours 45 minutes. “I think it’s starting to wear off. This pencil is mighty hard to hold.” (He is holding a crayon).

eUdua - Imgur

8 hours later: The intoxication has worn off. Patient offers up a final drawing.

NGCEf - Imgur

Related Content:

Ken Kesey’s First LSD Trip Animated

Beyond Timothy Leary: 2002 Film Revisits History of LSD

Aldous Huxley’s Most Beautiful, LSD-Assisted Death: A Letter from His Widow

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Comments (21)
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  • Ed Minister says:

    The model grew stubble in 8 hours!

  • vtorgonz says:

    Image for 5 hours 45 mins is a duplicate…

  • noche says:

    This had me laughing out loud. The hysterical laughter and startling of the floor was classic!

  • wildmother says:

    what’s the point? artistically pictures 5,6,7 (same as 8) are the best.

  • ken Zablotsky says:

    Yes iwas down in Palm Springs Calf. Usa this winter and I went up into the mountains North of Palm Spring to Jawshawa Tree and went to a estate home up in the high hills and there was a lot of old art being cleared out from the estate Sale .The one piece that interesed me was a pice of art that was created by the artist under LSD and it is so beautiful . It is very spiritual of the coolong of the sun sphere ,in the end of time . It had a write up with it as to how it was created under the drug . It was all dirty and dusty but excellent shape and was hard to see the art work untill I got it home and cleaned it up ,and it is beautifull and they say that some of the great art then was created under the influence of LSD . You can see the art on Saskatoon Kijiji art for sale listing or email me for pictures of it for I would like to know more thank you

  • Wes says:

    Jack Webb would NOT have approved of this experiment.

  • says:

    After taking LSD how can someone make these black and white Cartoon?

  • Jos says:

    The artist was Lászlo Mátefi, a Hungarian who had nothing to do with Oscar Janiger whatsoever, but did this experiment in 1951 in the psychiatric clinic of the university of Basel, Switserland (and followed it up two weeks later with a similar one with mescaline, also resulting in a series of portraits). The original publication is in German: ‘Mezcalin- und Lysergsäurediäthylamid-Rausch’, Confina Neurologica vol. 12 (1952) nr. 3.

  • Nate says:

    George Takei posted a link to a woman who drew a self portrait before and after taking LSD and at least for me this showed up beneath it for related links

  • Ken says:

    Similar post repost from George Takei brought me here

  • Draz says:

    George Takei posted a link to a similar experiment. Facebook is offering your site as an alternative “something that might interest you.”

  • beergas says:

    5th one looks like the teacher on South Park, one line, no break. 6th one is all art deco. 7 & 8 sort of fantasy in a soft good way. The crayon line is so funny.

  • Jim says:

    Does anyone have birth and death dates for Matefi? Or suggestions about where I could find them? I’m footnoting him in an edition of the Huxley Osmond letters and would like to provide dates if I can find them. Many thanks!

  • Luca says:

    Dear Jos,

    I’m interested in this article, but i dont’t find it. Could you please send me a link, if it exists in digital form?


  • Scott says:

    I saw this on my FB wall from Big Think

  • Michael p. says:

    does anyone know where this can be purchased? I think it would be cool to hang on my wall

  • nils says:

    If one looks at the article, the descriptions of the images here appear to be either very loose translations, or invented. For example, the description “starts laughing, then is startled by something on the floor” is not found in the article. Also, no singing or “the patient” being “nonverbal” (he seems rather talkative throughout).

  • Torrance Lee says:

    Why is it some would offer an opinion; Of what it is the creator wanted to draw and or wanted anyone fans decision makers of societies supposed and related ideas hypothisys’s, possible theories nothin tested by self, veited hopefully not a group of similar thinking haters of just and “What the front door,so shut the front door!
    All have fourth point contacts so to speak, so we’ll all have opinions and are blessed with our freedoms to voice any thought wanted. That’s one of the reasons I served in our military and loved it. When it was good, when it was up it was way up; and when it was down it was way down and brought you with it, but endured to make stronger,thoughtful,hopefully with more wisdom then the generation before to be more human to make desicions to affect all society of generations of time.
    Since the year 1989 statistically speaking if one looked into records past that there are not to many test scores of our populace that exceed those testing scores just new tests to make all incomparable due to each years observations of what some decides to judge on

  • Akos says:

    Hi Jos,

    I’m a distant relative of László Mátéfi who you are referring to. I’m super interested of his life and work, and trying to gather all info available to complete my family history.
    Are you familiar with his work, or by any chance aware of what kind of experiments he conducted? I’d also love to know how his professional life influenced his painting style.

    Kind Regards,

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