Adolf Wolfli

Artwork by Adolf Wolfli

Adolph Wolfli was a Swiss artist who was one of the first artists to be associated with the Art Brut or outsider art label. He was arrested and in 1895 was admitted to the Waldau Clinic, a psychiatric hospital in Bern where he spent the rest of his adult life. He suffered from psychosis which led to intense hallucinations.

Wölfli produced a huge number of works during his life, often working with the barest of materials and trading smaller works with visitors to the clinic to obtain pencils, paper or other essentials. The images Wölfli produced were complex, intricate and intense. They worked to the very edges of the page with detailed borders. In a manifestation of Wölfli’s “horror vacul”, every empty space was filled with two small holes. Wölfli called the shapes around these holes his “birds.”

His images also incorporated an idiosyncratic musical notation. This notation seemed to start as a purely decorative affair but later developed into real composition which Wölfli would play on a paper trumpet.

Leave a Reply