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Border Crossing Between Art and Psychiatry

Works from the Kraft Collection

December 10, 2020 – July 11, 2021


The neurologist and psychoanalyst Hartmut Kraft (*1949) is a passionate collector. Ever since his school days, he has acquired post-war artworks, especially multiples, African artifacts, depictions of ‘Kopffüßler’ (cephalopods, or, literally, heads with feet), and many others. Since his medical training at the state hospital in Bonn in the 1970s, he has collected pictures and sculptures by people who have experienced psychiatric treatment. Some of these were given to him by those who created them, others he purchased from art dealers. Initially, he was inspired by Hans Prinzhorn’s book, Artistry of the Mentally Ill (1922), which was reprinted in 1968. Later, Kraft’s collection would become the basis for his own book, Border Crossing Between Art and Psychiatry, published in 1986, which itself has become a classic in the field.

This exhibition presents a selection of works from Kraft’s many-faceted special collection, on the occasion of his donating a portion of his collection to our museum. This gift represents a valuable enrichment to the Prinzhorn Collection, with works from the 1970s to 1990s, including works on paper by Gustav Mesmer (1903–1994), Augustin Wilhelm Schnietz (1933–1988) and Theodor Wagemann, known as “Theo” (1918–1998). In addition, we are showing works by Blalla W. Hallmann (1941–1997), Karl Junker (1850–1912) and Friedrich Schröder-Sonnenstern (1892–1982), which, for the time being, remain in the doctor’s possession.

Gustav Mesmer, untitled, undated, watercolour and ink on paper © Prinzhorn Collection, University Hospital Heidelberg


Permanent Exhibition

Die Sammlung Prinzhorn – von „Irrenkunst" zur Outsider Art (The Prinzhorn Collection – From “Art of the Insane” to Outsider Art)

From July 1, 2020

For the first time, the Prinzhorn Collection has created a permanent exhibition to accompany the museum’s special exhibits. Entitled “The Prinzhorn Collection – From ‘Art of the Insane’ to Outsider Art”, the exhibit features around 120 works created in a psychiatric context from the mid-19th century until today, offering a glimpse of the 27,000 works in the collection. Read more...

Image: Josef Forster, self-portrait, 1916-1921, Inv.No. 4494 © Prinzhorn Collection, Heidelberg University Hospital