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the prinzhorn collection.! art brut before art brut.

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The Prinzhorn Collection is presumably the most important collection featuring works by people who spent their lives in psychiatric institutions in the early 20th century. Hans Prinzhorn worked as an assistant at the Heidelberg psychiatric clinic, was an art historian and led a life of adventure; he expanded the collection of clinic director Emil Kraepelin by sending requests to many institutions in German-speaking areas of Europe to ask for works by their patients. By 1921 he had received around 4,500 drawings and objects, which he personally archived. His book Bildnerei der Geisteskranken (Artistry of the Mentally Ill, trans. 1995) was not published by the Springer Verlag until 1922, after his departure from Heidelberg: It would later become the “Surrealists’ Bible” (Werner Spies).
Although many works from this collection have been shown frequently and in numerous places since that time, the museum gugging is able to present drawings that Prinzhorn himself did not exhibit and which have been lying in the archive since 1921.
On the one hand, this show presents the “10 masters” of Prinzhorn’s book; however, its main focus is nonetheless on unknown or little known works that carry visitors off into the creative world of institutionalized men and women at the beginning of the 20th century. Else Blankenhorn, who has become the central figure of this exhibition, is one of the most artistically interesting talents among them.
The concept of Art Brut, which was first developed in the 1940s by the French artist and collector Jean Dubuffet, is applicable to all works created outside the influence of culture — even those made long before the word existed. This also includes the Prinzhorn Collection, which was gathered together from the end of the 19th century until 1921 and thus represents an Art Brut before (the term) Art Brut.

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