The Art of Mescaline by Mike Jay

Art under the influence of mescaline by Basil Beaumont (1936): Courtesy of Bethlem Museum of the Mind

From the peyote motifs in the traditional art of the Huichol people to the avant-garde experiments of 20th-century modernists, mescaline has been intimately involved in the production of visual art across cultures and throughout history. Using a selection of dazzling and rarely seen images, Mike Jay considers the relationship between the psychedelic and the resulting work, and asks how far can we consider ‘mescaline art’ as a coherent genre.

‘The Art of Mescaline’ is a brand new talk by Mike being given at Writers on Drugs this December in London. It comes hot on the heels of his latest book – Mescaline: A Global History of the First Psychedelic (2019). This momentous work has been rightly described by The Guardian review as, ‘the culmination of a lifetime’s wanderings in the very farthest outposts of scientific and medical history.’ And from our own reviewer as a book that ‘neatly unpicks the journey of Peyote and San Pedro out of the mists of prehistory and into the fields of modernity.’ In this talk he’ll be going even deeper into its relationship with art and human expression.

Join us, Mike Jay and 5 other speakers for Writers on Drugs on December 8.  A full day of psychedelic talks taking place in Tuke Hall, Regent’s Park, London. Also see the Psychedelic Press journal XXVII, which features Basil Beaumont’s (artist featured above) account of his mescaline experience.


Mike Jay has written widely on the history of science, medicine, drugs and consciousness, and regularly contributes to the London Review of Books, the Wall Street Journal and the Literary Review. He has written widely on the topic of psychoactive drugs, including the mysterious Vedic soma in Blue Tide (1999), his acclaimed Emperors of Dreams: Drugs in the Nineteenth Century (2000), and nitrous oxide in The Atmosphere of Heaven (2009). There is no one better placed to tackle the extraordinary cultural and artistic journey of mescaline and its cactus parents.

Here’s a look at his recent talk at Breaking Convention 2019 dealing with mescaline’s multifaceted distribution across the globe:

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