Art and Psychosis

... In a brief and unique moment in history, before the introduction of anti-psychotic drugs when the making of art by patients was encouraged by certain mental institutions, Hans Prinzhorn a psychiatrist working in Heidelberg, began to collect patients’ art. Believing that the work spoke of primordial truths he undertook to make it available to the public. Prinzhorn developed a method of classifying patients by the images they made, noting two particular combinations that he found ‘suspicious’ in patients, “the pointless logic applied to the repetition of detailed forms” and the “the construction of a scaffold on which to arrange the rabble of formal elements.” (3) His research led him to discover that although schizophrenia does not create new talent, (many were artists before they became ill) the illness does seem to render the patient open to psychical processes that are usually only limited to the artist. Lacan later noted that there were certain ‘beneficial traits’ that occured in psychosis such as a heightened appreciation of nature and a vivid recollection of childhood.

pdf