The Schizophrenic Outlook and Our Age

  • Hans Prinzhorn


We have had many occasions to emphasize the direct importance of schizophrenic art for our time. The relationship is very complex. The particularly close relationship of a large number of our pictures to contemporary art is obvious. Furthermore, experience shows that people of very different characters, ages, and occupations were powerfully and lastingly impressed by these pictures and were not infrequently compelled to ask themselves fundamental cultural and philosophical questions. As far as the pictures’ relationship to contemporary art is concerned, we were able to observe a succession of reactions which clearly showed the influence of emotions or personal interest on every individual judgment. Whereas culturally conservative and historically oriented persons either did not react to the individuality of the pictures at all or tried to reinterpret fleeting impressions into cultural and political tendencies, all the observers who live with the problems of pictorial configuration or are closely involved with abnormal psychology responded eagerly to the strangest works. Some of the artists, among them conservatives and, on the other hand, extreme expressionists, gave themselves up to a calm study of the pictures’ peculiarities, admired numerous pictures without stint, and dismissed others, without even considering dividing them up into those that are healthy and those that are sick. Others again, belonging to very different schools, renounced all the material as nonart, but nevertheless paid lively attention to all its nuances. A third group, finally, were shaken to their foundations and believed that they had found the original process of all configuration, pure inspiration, for which alone, after all, every artist thirsts. Some of them underwent a series of developmental crises from which in the end they found their way back to greater knowledge about themselves and their work.


Original Process Abnormal Psychology Political Tendency Traditional Outlook Configurative Power 
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  1. 46.
    Most recently we again notice attempts at a new construction of a concept of the human norm, in which creative configuration plays the most important role. See above all the strict and clear attempt of Kurt Hildebrandt in his book, Norm and Entartung des Menschen, Dresden, 1920. Gruhle discusses all sorts of psychic abnormalities purely psychologically in the volume entitled “Psychologic des Abnormen” of the Handbuch der Vergleichenden Psychologie, still in print and published by E. Reinhardt, Munich. For the nonpsychiatrist, for whom the well known Allgemeine Psychopathologie by Jaspers (2d ed., 1920) may perhaps seem to address itself too closely to psychiatric needs, Gruhle’s work makes the whole subject accessible for the first time. Rich resources from all periods appear in Birnbaum, Psychopathologische Dokumente, Berlin, 1921. There are many sociological and art historical works to complement these psychopathologic studies, e. g.. E. von Sydow, Die Kultur der Dekadenz, Dresden, 1921.Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1972

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  • Hans Prinzhorn

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