Hans Prinzhorn: Curating the Art of Mental Illness

A R T L▼R K

51CQV6NIzLL._On the 6th of June 1886, German psychiatrist and art historian  Hans Prinzhorn was born in Hemer, Westphalia. After obtaining a doctorate in art history and philosophy from the University of Vienna, he decided to train in England as a singer, but ended up studying medicine and became an Army surgeon in WWI.  In 1919, he became assistant to Karl Wilmanns at the psychiatric hospital of the University of Heidelberg. He soon took over the task of building up Emil Kraepelin’s earlier collection of art created by the mentally ill of the hospital. When he left in 1921 the collection had reached more than 5000 works by about 450 “cases”.

In 1922, as a result of his research,  he published his first and most influential book,Bildnerei der Geisteskranken (Artistry of the Mentally Ill), abundantly illustrated with examples from the collection he had helped develop. His medical colleagues were…

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