Does Genius Equal Madness?

February 26, 2016
Natalie Timoshin

Volume 33, Issue 2

The Prinzhorn collection laid the groundwork for psychiatric art and inspired many modern artists.

The psychiatrist and art historian, Hans Prinzhorn argued against this notion. In 1919 he arrived at the University of Heidelberg Psychiatric Hospital where he worked to expand the collection of art created by the mentally ill that had been started by Emil Kraepelin. Prinzhorn appreciated the art of the mentally ill not only for its psychological significance but also for its aesthetic value.

In his book, Artistry of the Mentally Ill,1 Prinzhorn argued that “if a work may be said to constitute genius, judgment by any fixed, outside standard, should have little bearing on its intrinsic and lasting value.”1 The collection eventually laid the groundwork for psychiatric art and inspired many modern artists, including Max Ernst and Paul Klee.

Further reading:Madness, Psychiatry, and the Visual Arts in History

References:

1. Prinzhorn H. Artistry of the Mentally Ill. Heidelberg, Germany: Springer; 1972.