Migraine as Muse

Untitled (Oneirophrenia) no 5 – Tim Silver


Strolling through the Versus Rodin exhibition at the Art Gallery, a particular sculpture catches my eye. The likeness of a mans face, in dusty white concrete. Our guide describes how the artist, Tim Silver, created a mould of his head, then packed it with bread dough and let it rise. We see the shape of the dough, ruptured through his plaster skin. ‘A depiction of his experience of migraine’ our guide explains. The piece is called ‘Oneirophrenia’ from the Greek words oneiros (dreams) and phrenos (mind).


Depicting migraine in art is not a new exploration. Designs in cave and rock during the Stone Age look very much like the aura of a migraine and the debate continues whether analysing Pablo Picasso’s work unveils a lifetime of migraine. Derek Robinson sensibly termed this ‘migraine art’ and even wrote a book on it. A national charity, Migraine Action, has collected over 500 migraine art depictions for free viewing, while offering additional support.


For the art savvy, the painting enthusiast, or just the general wielder of a pen – expressing your symptoms via drawing can be a powerful communication tool. A picture paints a thousand words, and all that. We tried our hand here at NOI – this is one of our own visualising her personal experience with migraine.



– Hayley Leake









3 Responses to “Migraine as Muse”

  1. Til Luchau

    Thank you, Haley.
    I’ve often wondered, what does it say about the nature or experience of migraines, that there seems to be far more migraine art, than art related to other painful symptoms? Searching google for “migraine art” gets 140,000 results; “ankle sprain art” yields exactly 0 examples.

  2. Donald F Schiff

    In part, I think the lack of “ankle sprain art” speaks to differences between acute and chronic pain. I suspect that the urge or need to express the experience of migraines as art stems in part from the durability and intensity of the symptoms. In addition, the lack of effective mainstream solutions for migraines and other headaches might drive the search for and use of other therapy options.


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