Drawings of mentally ill people

Lessons in Botany, Jean Dubuffet.
Lessons in Botany, Drawings of mentally ill people.

Jean Dubuffet and his collection of Drawings of mentally ill people

In the late 1940s, the unthinkable happened. The artist and sculptor from France Jean Philippe Arthur Dubuffet, who created tens of thousands of works that the best galleries in the world are proud of today, presented the public with a very controversial surprise. Impressed by psychiatrist Prinzhorn’s book “Painting of the Mentally Ill,” he organized an exhibition of works by permanent residents of mental hospitals.

Before him, no one other than psychiatrists had collected drawings from clients of the “yellow houses,” but the master went even further – he announced the creation of a new genre in art. A genre that has similar features to Dadaism, primitivism, surrealism, and also received the name “art brut” or “wild, raw art” with the light hand of the painter.

Archetypes, Jean Dubuffet.
Archetypes, Jean Dubuffet.

Later, another epithet was added to this name – “outsider art”, denoting the phenomenon of works that ignore generally accepted boundaries. The French painter became not only one of the pioneers of complex and controversial art brut, but also his faithful vassal – since the 40s of the last century, his paintings most closely resemble children’s drawings or scribbles of a mentally ill person. But let’s return to the Dubuffet collection.

Marginal creativity He carefully and scrupulously selected works for his collection. Among them were drawings of maniacs and murderers, rapists, ordinary eccentrics, people suffering from severe mental disorders, as well as representatives of exotic small ethnic groups – all those who fall under the definition of “outsider.” Why did this painting interest the artist? He argued that the concepts of beauty and ugliness do not apply to it, that it is a true free art that exists outside the framework of culture. It delighted the artist.

Adolf Wölfli Formosa Island in the Indian Ocean, 1914.
Adolf Wölfli Formosa Island in the Indian Ocean, 1914.

Adolf Wölfli

Dubuffet became one of the “parents” of many classics of the genre. Among them is the Swiss Adolf Wölfli. The future star of the genre was born in 1864, and already from 1895, the former stonecutter lived continuously in the Waldau psychiatric hospital, where ten years later he began to draw. Wölfli’s works are distinguished by excellent detail and geometricity. In 1948, some of them became exhibits of the famous exhibition in Paris.

Adolf Wölfli St. Mary's Cathedral, Giant Grapes, 1915.
Adolf Wölfli St. Mary’s Cathedral, Giant Grapes, 1915.
Drawings of mentally ill people Adolf Wölfli Waldau Psychiatric Clinic, 1921.
Adolf Wölfli Waldau Psychiatric Clinic, 1921.
Adolf Wölfli Ring of the snake of St. Adolf, in the Indian Ocean.
Ring of the snake of St. Adolf, in the Indian Ocean.

Aloisa Corbaz

At the origins of Swiss primitivism, Aloïse Corbaz was a completely ordinary private teacher until, immediately after the First World War, in 1918, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Two years later she is already a permanent patient in a mental hospital. It was there that Korbaz began drawing.

Drawings of mentally ill people Aloisa drew her unfulfilled desires.
Aloisa drew her unfulfilled desires.

Being passionately in love with the last Prussian king in her youth, Aloise made romantic couples frequent subjects of her works. She loved to portray historical characters; theatrical themes were also close to her.

Dubuffet found the mentally ill artist in 1947 and was struck by the vibrant exoticism of her paintings. Until the end of the brilliant madwoman’s life, the artist continued to buy her works. It is interesting that Aloisa did not choose at all what she painted on – cardboard and newspapers, scraps of wrapping paper, which she carefully sewed together, served as her canvas.

Drawings of mentally ill people Aloise's heroes are not shy in expressing their feelings.
Aloise’s heroes are not shy in expressing their feelings.
Who else was inspired by art brut?

There were many other authors whose works were included in Dubuffet’s collection and served as a source of inspiration for the artist himself. By the way, he is not the only one who was delighted and amazed by marginal outsider art. Fans also include Max Ernst, Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine, avant-garde artist Niki de Saint Phalle, Jean Tinguely and Salvador Dali.

Drawings of mentally ill people The eyes of Aloise's characters are fascinating and frightening.
The eyes of Aloise’s characters are fascinating and frightening. Drawings of mentally ill people.
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