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Beyond Reason: Art and Psychosis - Works from the Prinzhorn Collection [Paperback]

Laurent Busine , Bettina Brand-Claussen , Caroline Douglas , Inge Jadi
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 Sep 1998
In the early 1920s the German art historian and psychiatrist, Hans Prinzhorn (1886-1933), amassed a remarkable collection of some 5,000 paintings, drawings, objects, and collages made by patients in European psychiatric institutions. His interest, unique at the time, was twofold: to assess the art as creative work, and to use it as a way of studying mental illness. Prinzhorn's Collection attracted the attention of many artists, including Paul Klee and Oskar Schlemmer, but by the 1930s, when the Nazis declared such work "degenerate," the Collection fell into disrepair.Only in recent decades has it been properly restored and made available for a wider public. This catalog accompanied the first exhibition in Britain to foreground the Prinzhorn Collection as a whole. The works represented in these pages defy simple categorization. The range is extraordinary and the art's startling sophistication, inventiveness, and beauty inevitably prompt comparison with such artists as Max Ernst and the Surrealists and with Jean Dubuffet. Three texts are immensely helpful in providing an understanding of the Collection's importance: Bettina Brand-Claussen deals with the Collection's origins within the changing culture of postwar Europe; Inge Jadi offers a meditation on the ethical, interpretative, and aesthetic questions in presenting the Collection; and Caroline Douglas sets Prinzhorn's endeavor within a broader historical and intellectual context.Questions surrounding art and madness are endlessly fascinating, no more so than today, as science moves to unlock the mysteries of the mind. The Prinzhorn Collection will do much to inspire continuing debate on the links between creativity, rationality, and illness.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 196 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (7 Sep 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520217403
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520217409
  • Product Dimensions: 28.2 x 22.6 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 655,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Laurent Busine is Director of Exhibitions at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Charleroi, Belgium. Inge Jadi is Curator of the Prinzhorn Collection at the Psychiatric Department of the University of Heidelberg and Bettina Brand-Claussen is Assistant Curator. Caroline Douglas is an Exhibition Officer at the British Council.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting Yet Fascinating Inventions 29 Mar 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Our first acquaintance with the Prinzhorn Collection of psychotic art at the University of Heidelberg was in the paperback edition of Ernst Kris, Psychoanalytic Explorations in Art (New York: Schocken Books, 1967), a book it may help to refer to while reading this one. This is the full-color catalog of a 1996-1997 exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London of more than 200 examples of artÑdrawings, paintings (some using "body color"), collages, and sculptureÑproduced by mental patients in European psychiatric hospitals. The full collection, which includes nearly 5,000 items from the period of about 1890 to 1920, was named after Hans Prinzhorn (1886-1933), a German art historian and psychiatrist who did not initiate the collection, but was largely responsible for its promotion, use, and preservation. He became famous overnight when he published a book in 1922 titled Artistry of the Mentally Ill, which praised the "authenticity" and "primordiality" of psychotic self-expression. It attracted the attention of many Modern artists, especially Surrealists and Expressionists, and was used by the Nazis as proof of the underlying sickness of what they condemned publicly in 1937 as "degenerate art." Suppressed but thankfully not destroyed, the Prinzhorn Collection was stacked in a cupboard until the early 1970s, and has now been restored. These haunting yet fascinating inventions, all beautifully reproduced, are prefaced by scholarly essays about Prinzhorn, psychotic expression, and social conditions in Europe between the wars. (Review from Ballast Quarterly Review, Vol 14 No 1, Autumn 1998.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars uncahtered territory 7 April 2006
By gabrial
Format:Paperback
The above review is informative - but perhaps one needs also to say that the art is itself often of such magical richness, poignancy and affect - like much ethnic art - that conventional art (especially conventional contempoary art that apes its ideas and approaches) seems hapless in comparison. The texts are good iuntroductions to the reception of the art and the analyses not to reductive.
The struggles of the Institution during the Nazizeit are well-tackled - but it is the material itself. A brief overview (with art references to give an idea of what it looks like - whle of course it looks like nothing on earth in the main) to gavie an idea of the breadth of imagination. The epileptic Beehle's Schoenberg faces and 'antelopes';
Blankenhorn's catatonic feminine idyll, very Austro-1900; Bühler's 'Amfortas' wearing a tondo frame over his head attacks hagfish ; .Dietmeyer's provocative females in lingerie pick up young men in suits; Joseph Foster 's beautifully painted machine for travelling with ballast on legs at high speed weightlessly through the air (1916); Herzberg's 'Discourse on castrati'... ; , Freiherr von Hyacinth 'Slevogt'-style 'Don Giovanni' illustrations; Joseph A. K Maier's Schreber-type explanations of currents and rays; Mebes's breeding pod for humans; Heinrich Anton Müller's 'long mouse'; Natterer's Arcimboldo/Momper-like 'Witch' head Schudel's 'Fotterzeit der Pferde', six horses at the tub of feed; viewed from above; Umgelter's large, biting heads: 'Kleptomanie', 1906; (ill. V. Biennale, 1995 p. 164 sq.); "X-rays' of the brain/skull
[The Venice Biennale, 1995 has many more reproductions of 'psychotic' art. ]
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Art and expression "beyond reason" ... 15 Oct 1999
By Robert D. Williams - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I am a senior student of fine arts at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, and I purchased "Beyond Reason" with hopes of injecting new influences into my own art. I cannot explain what this book showed me -- I did not anticipate being so taken by the works I discovered. On virtually every page, profound works of art are shown by men and women not seeing themselves as artists, but merely as human beings desperately needing to express their inner emotions. I was humbled, to the point that I am second guessing my own artistic ambitions. I was very, very moved by the works -- their frenzied grasps at order apparent with every stroke and line. Whether you are an art student, art historian, or student of the psychology, I highly recommend this edition. Beautifully reproduced and presented with respect for their creators ... "Beyond Reason" is among the finest art books in my personal library.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Art as a provocative view into the human mind 7 Aug 2000
By Stephen S. Hau - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I first discovered the Prinzhorn Collection in late 1996 when selected paintings and drawings were put on display at the Hayward Gallery in London. The experience was extremely memorable.
More than just an art exhibit, "Beyond Reason" represented a provocative view into the inner workings on the human mind. (This is especially meaningful if you accept the argument that an understanding of the ailing mind can elucidate the functions of the healthy one.)
As you view the entire collection, patterns begin to emerge. "Circular" thinking, fear of being "trapped" in one's mind, and the desire to "escape" mental illness are common motifs. The cover of the book shows a great example. Painted by a schizophrenic, he successfully depicts his irrational fear of weightlessness; here, he must wear a blindfold and use hand-stilts to prevent himself from floating away.
Needless to say, I purchased a copy of the "Beyond Reason" book. Nearly 200 (mostly color) high-quality reproductions are presented, and the commentary is wonderful. I highly recommend this book.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting Yet Fascinating Inventions 29 Mar 1999
By Simulacrum - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Our first acquaintance with the Prinzhorn Collection of psychotic art at the University of Heidelberg was in the paperback edition of Ernst Kris, Psychoanalytic Explorations in Art (New York: Schocken Books, 1967), a book it may help to refer to while reading this one. This is the full-color catalog of a 1996-1997 exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London of more than 200 examples of artÑdrawings, paintings (some using "body color"), collages, and sculptureÑproduced by mental patients in European psychiatric hospitals. The full collection, which includes nearly 5,000 items from the period of about 1890 to 1920, was named after Hans Prinzhorn (1886-1933), a German art historian and psychiatrist who did not initiate the collection, but was largely responsible for its promotion, use, and preservation. He became famous overnight when he published a book in 1922 titled Artistry of the Mentally Ill, which praised the "authenticity" and "primordiality" of psychotic self-expression. It attracted the attention of many Modern artists, especially Surrealists and Expressionists, and was used by the Nazis as proof of the underlying sickness of what they condemned publicly in 1937 as "degenerate art." Suppressed but thankfully not destroyed, the Prinzhorn Collection was stacked in a cupboard until the early 1970s, and has now been restored. These haunting yet fascinating inventions, all beautifully reproduced, are prefaced by scholarly essays about Prinzhorn, psychotic expression, and social conditions in Europe between the wars. (Review from Ballast Quarterly Review, Vol 14 No 1, Autumn 1998.)
2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars machinic desire 8 Feb 2001
By Dave Eng - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
An excellect selection of schizz-flows and machinic couplings, looking at this book is like watching a film by the Brother's Quay (and I believe the Brother's have made a new film based on one of the artists in this book, "In Absentia"). A beautiful and fetishistic stroll through the "Outside" of those who were locked up "inside". Take flight!
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