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Adolf Wölfli (1864-1930)

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Adolf Wölfli was a Swiss artist who was one of the first artists to be associated with the Art Brut or outsider art label.

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Wölfli was born in Bern. He was abused both physically and sexually as a child, and was orphaned at the age of 10. He thereafter grew up in a series of state-run foster homes. He worked as a Verdingbub (indentured child labourer) and briefly joined the army. He often attempted to perform sexual acts on young girls – often getting away unpunished. Eventually, he was caught in the act and institutionalized for his doings. After being freed, he was re-arrested for a similar offense and in 1895 was admitted to the Waldau Clinic, a psychiatric hospital in Bern where he spent the rest of his adult life. He was very disturbed and sometimes violent on admission, leading to him being kept in isolation for his early time at hospital. He suffered from psychosis, which led to intense hallucinations and that shows in his works.

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The above text comes from WIKIPEDIA, …i did not know that he was conviceted for child abuse, but because of my interest in the Stedelijk MUseum i had encountered his publication for a Wolfli exhibition before and not only the Stedelijk showed an interest in this highly original artist. In the mid Seventies there was a tour which showed his works in Switzerland and Germany ( catalogue available at If there is one artist i feel who is connected to this kind of work and maybe inspired it must be Gunter Brus. There is so much to discover in these paintings and drawings by Wolfli that this artist deserves to be known and remembered for his art and not for anything else.

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