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August Natterer Satana by Hanz Prinzhorn

Today we look at August Natterer Satana by Hanz Prinzhorn for Artwork in Focus. Join me Divvya Nirula as I explore and present my experience of the selected artwork.

Artwork in Focus

Title: August Natterer Satana
Artist : Hanz Prinzhorn                  
Year : 1911
Location : The Prinzhorn Collection Museum in Heidelberg

August Natterer Satana, 1911, by Hanz Prinzhorn
Image Courtesy : artsy

The Artwork

Hans Prinzhorn was an art historian, psychiatrist and a self-dramatist. After he obtained his doctorate in art history and philosophy from the University of Vienna, he went on to train in England as a singer. Hanz was destined for other things and ended up studying medicine and during WWI, he served in the Army as a surgeon.

Moving closer to his destiny, Hanz apprenticed as an assistant to Dr. Karl Wilmanns at the psychiatric hospital, of the University of Heidelberg in 1919. This would be the beginning of his personal project that he would nurture.

He was an avid follower of Emil Kraepelin’s work. He soon took over the task of building up the psychiatrist’s earlier collection of art created by the mentally ill of the hospital. When he left in 1921 the collection had reached more than 5000 works by about 450 “cases”.

Hanz was mainly interested in proving his aesthetic theory via the art of the patients. A sensitive subject, and now more so – he and Emil together created a platform of recognition. He enabled the patients to be recognized as artists in their own right.

If one was to ascertain it artistically, one can spot influences of the contemporary intellectual climate in the collection. This is apparent in the many technical drawings and the central theme of female sexuality, however these works are unique.

Other Details

In search of assuaging his passion to research and put these works out for people to see, between 1919 and 1921 Prinzhorn travelled extensively. He visited several psychiatric facilities across Germany, and collected approximately 5,000 artworks made by patients. By 1930 the collection has grown to include some 6,000 works.

Hanz’s efforts found patronage, the collection was popularized by the Austrian writer and illustrator Alfred Kubin. After his professor Wilmanns invited Hanz to view the collection, he was impressed by the “secret laws” of the works. Kubin later wrote about the “wonders of the artist’s minds, whose creativity dawned from beyond the depths our understanding” in his 1922 essay, The Art of the Insane.

Almost necessarily, these works become aestheticized and are easily considered” beautiful” when they are shown in an environment familiar to society, like at an exhibition. But Inge Jadi reminds us from a psychiatric viewpoint that this art resulted from great pain and is part of the personal catastrophe of each producer.” As is observed by Vera Lind, in her review of Beyond Reason: Art and Psychosis.


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