Adolf Wölfli on World Mental Health Day

It’s World Mental Health Day, a day celebrated to raise awareness to end the stigma of mental health disorders and difficulties. On a day like today, I don’t want to spaff on about campaigns and statistics or what WMHD means to me. I’m going to use it as a means to tag this post, so people can find this blog, and find all the wonderful art in its pages, created by people who all use mental health services. I’m also a mental health service user, and an artist, but I get plenty of exposure for my art. Instead I want to talk about art and artists I like, in particular, Adolf Wölfi.

I love outsider art. It’s my favourite thing, along with folk art. Adolf Wölfli was an outsider artist associated with the Art Brut movement. He came from Bern, Switzerland. He was treated badly in his very young years, being both physically and sexually abused. He was an orphan and he got pushed from one foster home to another. Not an easy life, and it had hardly even started.

Wölfli didn’t start to draw until his admission to the Waldau Clinic, Bern, in 1895. He had been a farm labourer, and was briefly in the army, before his admission TO Waldau, however he had also been convicted of attempted child molestation and also spent some time serving a prison sentence. After his release he was picked up again for a similar offence. It was at this point he was admitted to the asylum where he would spend the rest of his adult life.

This is when he began to draw. This is when Adolf Wölfli came to life. I want to focus on his art, not his admission to Waldau, or his jail time. If you want to read more about that, check out his Wiki page, and, if you can get your hands on a copy, the book published by one of the doctors at Waldau, ‘Ein Geisteskranker als Künstler (A Psychiatric Patient as Artist)’.

Wölfli produced a massive body of work over the course of his life in residence at the asylum. Here is some of that work, and I encourage you to buy this:

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