Unknown Works from Swiss Psychiatric Institutions around 1900

A little known, idiosyncratic early modernism in Swiss visual art



Title Information

Edited by Katrin Luchsinger, Helen Hirsch und Thomas Röske. With contributions by Helen Hirsch, Anna Lehninger, Katrin Luchsinger, Thomas Röske, Sigrid Schade, Elisabeth Telsnig, and Martina Wernli

1st edition

, 2018

Text English and German


320 pages, 82 color and 74 b/w illustrations

17 x 24 cm

ISBN 978-3-85881-604-7


There has been a rapid rise in interest in recent years in art created by people suffering from mental illness, with new museums dedicated to it, major surveys, and attention from the media and public. Yet there has been little research undertaken to systematically examine this body of art.

Extraordinary! presents the results of an exceptional research project undertaken at the Zurich University of the Arts that documented and examined art produced in asylums and mental hospitals throughout Switzerland around 1900. Varied in style and media, the works often mark long periods of dedicated and passionate work and reveal remarkable technical and artistic prowess. They serve, the editors show, as both an expression of their creators’ ideas and an act of compensation for, and their own ciriticism of, the dull and often hard life at the institutions they treaded.

Featuring a diverse selection of previously unpublished works, Extraordinary! questions our contemporary understanding of art, encouraging the reader to engage with these artists and their work and thereby revisit the very idea of what constitutes art.

The book is published to coincide with exhibitions at Prinzhorn Collection, Heidelberg (Germany, autumn 2018), Kunstmuseum Thun (Switzerland, spring 2019), and LENTOS Kunstmuseum Linz (Austria, summer 2019).

Authors & Editors

Helen Hirsch

 is an art historian and director of Kunstmuseum Thun in Switzerland.

Anna Lehninger

Katrin Luchsinger

Thomas Röske

Sigrid Schade

, born 1954, studied art history, German literature and linguistics, and cultural sciences in Tübingen, Paris, and London. She has been working as a research assistant, lecturer, and professor at various universities in Germany and since 2002 as a professor of art and cultural sciences at Zurich University of the Arts ZHdK.

Elisabeth Telsnig

Martina Wernli