Adolf Wölfli

    Attributes

    • Male

    About the artist

    1864: Was born in Bern, Switzerland
    1899: Wölfli begins to draw spontaneously.
    1930: Adolf Wölfli dies on 6 November of intestinal cancer

    Adolf Wölfli was a Swiss artist and one of the first artists to be associated with the Art Brut or outsider art label.


    Wölfli was born in Bern. He was abused both physically and sexually as a child, and was orphaned at the age of 10. He thereafter grew up in a series of state-run foster homes. He worked as a farm labourer and briefly joined the army, but was later convicted of attempted child molestation, for which he served prison time.

    Sometime after being freed, he was arrested for a similar offense and was admitted in 1895 to the Waldau Clinic in Bern, Switzerland, a psychiatric hospital where he spent the rest of his adult life. He was very disturbed and sometimes violent on admission, leading to him being kept in isolation for his early time at hospital. He suffered from psychosis, which led to intense hallucinations.


    At some point after his admission Wölfli began to draw. His first surviving works (a series of 50 pencil drawings) are dated from between 1904 and 1906.

    Walter Morgenthaler, a doctor at the Waldau Clinic, took a particular interest in Wölfli's art and his condition, later publishing Ein Geisteskranker als Künstler (A Psychiatric Patient as Artist) in 1921 which first brought Wölfli to the attention of the art world.

    Wölfli produced a huge number of works during his life, often working with the barest of materials and trading smaller works with visitors to the clinic to obtain pencils, paper or other essentials. Morgenthaler closely observed Wölfli's methods, writing in his influential book:


    "Every Monday morning Wölfli is given a new pencil and two large sheets of unprinted newsprint. The pencil is used up in two days; then he has to make do with the stubs he has saved or with whatever he can beg off someone else. He often writes with pieces only five to seven millimetres long and even with the broken-off points of lead, which he handles deftly, holding them between his fingernails. He carefully collects packing paper and any other paper he can get from the guards and patients in his area; otherwise he would run out of paper before the next Sunday night. At Christmas the house gives him a box of coloured pencils, which lasts him two or three weeks at the most."


    Source: Adolf Wölfli Wikipedia

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