100 Years Artistry of the Mentally Ill

100 years ago, Hans Prinzhorn published his study Artistry of the Mentally Ill. A Contribution to the Psychology and Psychopathology of Configuration. In the book, he evaluated the teaching media collection of art created in psychiatric institutions, which we now call the “Prinzhorn Collection,” and which he had compiled during his time as an assistant physician at the Heidelberg psychiatric clinic from 1919 to 1921. In contrast to what was expected by experts, he claimed the paintings had no diagnostic value, and instead focused on the aesthetic qualities of the works. Idealizing the patients’ works as an expression of unadulterated, primal creativity, the psychiatrist and art historian struck a nerve of his time. The book met with great interest among artists and art enthusiasts, and brought renown to the collection, reaching far beyond the borders of Germany. In 2022, we will continue Prinzhorn’s work and focus on two artists in the collection for whom Prinzhorn planned, but never realized, individual publications: Else Blankenhorn and Heinrich Mebes. And we will present current research on Hans Prinzhorn in a symposium. In addition, in order to visualize the resonance of the book, we are publishing a video series with voices from psychiatrists, art historians, and many others.

We look forward to celebrating this anniversary with you!

Saturday, 9 Apr 2022, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. / Heidelberg Public Library 

Aspects of the Life and Work of Hans Prinzhorn 


Contributions by Ingrid von Beyme (curator of the Prinzhorn Collection), Bettina Brand-Claussen (former curator of the Prinzhorn Collection), Charlie English (journalist and author of the book The Gallery of Miracles and Madness. Insanity, Art and Hitler's First Mass-Murder Programme, [2021]), Maike Rotzoll (medical historian), Raimund Rumpeltes (psychoanalyst), and Thomas Röske (director of the Prinzhorn Collection) will provide insight into the current research surrounding Hans Prinzhorn and his book, which has remained a classic to this day. The lectures will pave the way for a collection of essays on Prinzhorn, which will be published in 2023.

To the programme >>>

Admission free! The number of participants is limited, registration by email to shopprinzhorn.zpm@med.uni-heidelberg.de (one person can register max. 2 persons) is required.

In cooperation with the Heidelberg Public Library and supported by the Institute for Psychoanalysis Heidelberg of the DPG (IPHD).

Life's Truth and Symbolization. Heinrich Herrmann Mebes – The Complete Works


Among the treasures of the Prinzhorn Collection are the illustrated books of the former clockmaker Heinrich Mebes (1842-1918). Their finely written texts and detailed symbolic images, which seem like idiosyncratic continuations of medieval or baroque illuminated manuscripts, are astonishing. So far, only single plates or double pages of his five preserved books have been shown in exhibitions and publications. Now, for the first time, a volume of over 450 pages will make the artist's complete works accessible to a larger audience. For this purpose, we have transcribed all texts written in the old German ‘Kurrent’ handwriting and, as far as possible, reordered the individual pages that were taken from the books. The monograph in landscape format, which also contains a detailed biography and several scholarly essays, is scheduled to be published by Das Wunderhorn in August 2022.

Illustrated books by Heinrich Mebes © Prinzhorn Collection, Heidelberg University Hospital

15 Sep 2022 – 22 Jan 2023


"The life of thought is real after all."
Else Blankenhorn – A Retrospective

Special exhibition

Else Blankenhorn (1873-1920) is the only woman to whom Hans Prinzhorn intended to dedicate a chapter in his Artistry of the Mentally Ill. But neither this nor a planned monograph came to fruition. Today, Blankenhorn is considered to be the secret star of the collection, as her work has been included in 94 exhibitions since 1929. The retrospective will feature around 150 works from a variety of subject areas, presenting the expressive, color-intensive diversity of her pictorial universe. One focal point is the multitude of banknotes that Blankenhorn produced to finance the resurrection and care of buried lovers. She believed she had been assigned this charitable duty by Emperor Wilhelm II, her "husband in spirit."

The Artistry & Me. Comments on Prinzhorn's Book

Video series

Hans Prinzhorn's Artistry of the Mentally Ill made an impression on numerous artists, psychiatrists, art historians, journalists and many others. For the first time, works by psychiatric patients were made visible to a wider public, both at home and abroad, and eventually led to the establishment of a museum that today serves as a model for other institutions dealing with Outsider Art. The book has familiarized artists with art from psychiatric wards and has inspired various artistic responses. And it has inspired psychiatrists and others to aesthetically value and collect art from psychiatric contexts. In our video series, readers of Artistry of the Mentally Ill share their personal comments with us. The series will launch in late March on our social media channels and on our website.

To our youtube channel >>>