agnes richter, a patient in a mental asylum in austria in the 1890's, spent her days embroidering text on to the jacket of her hospital uniform in attempts to record her life story. agnes, who had been a seamstress before her incarceration, painstakingly embroidered onto every part of the surface, both inside and out, sometimes so intensively that the text was illegible.
The core collection comprises approximately 5000 pieces of art created by approx. 450 patients of psychiatric institutions. These pieces comprise mostly drawings, water colors, writings, like letters, notes, drafts of books and exercise books, which were often self-manufactured, as well as oil paintings, material manual work, collages and 70 wooden sculptures. Approx. 1880 until 1933; main collecting period between1919-22.
A small but important part of the Collection is particularly fascinating due to the highly individual means and singular yet compelling formal solutions that are employed, and which contain a meaning of their own. These works are art in the closer sense of the word. They use aesthetic means to convey an understanding of extremes of human feeling and experience - often of a pre-linguistic nature, as is encountered in psychoses - and of how these are assimilated in madness, which has its own specific mental horizons. This "other" view of life appears to be quite hermetic, yet we for our part are generally unaware of the relativity of our own thinking, as laid down and shared by the society we live in. These works enable us to experience an underlying dimension of humanity that is potentially present in us all.
I believe the old saying would hold true, there but for the grace of god.