In past years mental health has been a rarely mentioned topic, which was usually avoided by the public, or accepted as a frightening case. William Sweetser was the first to raise the term “mental hygiene” in the middle of 19th century, but that time also is the period in which strictly organised psychiatric asylums were the only way to treat mentally ill patients. After several decades of scientific researches and changing society, the relationship between people and the topic of mental health awareness has dramatically changed. Now it is being brought up more and more often, on streets you can notice posters of charity campaigns, the number of celebrities referring to metal illnesses is increasing.
In this essay I will analyse a number of art and design case studies, in regards to mental health, such as Prinzhorn Collection, Jean de buffet and creative approaches of charity campaigns.
The first case study is Prinzhorn Collection, created in 1918-1921, which significantly raised audience’s attention to the subject. Its author, Hans Prinzhorn (1886 -1933), has fused his practice as an art historian with involvement into medical science during the World War I, so when he joined the University of Heidelberg Psychiatric Clinic 1919 as an assistant, the task given to him fitted perfectly. The task was to expand the arts program that had been established among the patients. It was started by Emil Kraepelin in order to collect works of mentally ill, which would question the nature of individual self-expression.
By the end of next two years the collection had around 5000 pieces, and the first success occurred quite soon, already in 1920 one of the most successful psychiatrists, Binswanger wrote about “overwhelming impression” made by works. Hans Prinzhorn was working on reputation of the collection really intensively, since expressionism played not the last role in his thinking of art and he knew how to present this idea as one of the concepts of expressionism. In fact, he found that art of mentally ill was an ultimate model of expression. In May 1922 his book “Artistry” was met with anticipation and curiosity. In this book Hans was analysing the drawings not only psychologically, but aesthetically as well. Besides, he was projecting investigations about nature and meaning of individual works in the future, but these plans were never brought to light.
After his sudden departure from Heidelberg, the collection slowed down its growth significantly, but the material continued to be supplied, as in 1933, for example, a ‘collection of 37 drawings’ was delivered. `at the same time, however, positive and intrigued reviews on the project were stopped by Nazi protests, which were stating the insanity of such concept. There was a row of incidents and Heidelberg Clinic was
a) Prinzhorn collection
b) Jean de buffet
c) Creative approaches of charity campaigns