New York

Adolf Wölfli

Grey Art Gallery

In 1895, Adolf Wölfli, a Swiss farmhand, was sentenced to life in a mental asylum for trying to rape a three-year-old girl. He was 31. Shortly thereafter he began making elaborate narrative drawings in lead and colored pencil. They were executed on large sheets of newsprint and later handstitched together into books. The project occupied him off and on until his death, in 1930. The drawings were hailed by the European intellectual community late in Wölfli’s life, thanks mostly to a groundbreaking monograph by his psychiatrist, Walter Morgenthaler: Ein Geisteskranker als Künstler (A mentally ill person as artist) was read and championed by the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, among others. Subsequently WölfIi’s art has been acknowledged as an influence by artists such as Jean Dubuffet, Hermann Nitsch, and Paul Klee. Frequently exhibited, studied, and used as the basis for documentary films

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