Between Beauty and Insanity

The Art Collection of Dr. Prinzhorn
Christian Beetz

What is the link between psychological states and the creative process? Is there a relationship between psychosis and the artistic impulse? What can art works produced by mental patients tell us about artistic genius? Can art therapy be helpful in the treatment of the mentally ill?

“Between Beauty & Insanity” examines these issues through the story of Dr. Hans Prinzhorn (1886-1933), a German psychiatrist. As Director of the Heidelberg Psychiatric Clinic in the 1920s, he was fascinated by the beauty and expressiveness of the drawings, paintings and sculptures of his schizophrenic patients. He began to study and preserve this art, eventually writing a seminal study, Artistry of the Mentally Ill, and by the time of his death had organized the largest collection of its type in the world. After Prinzhorn’s death, the Nazis displayed some of his patients’ works for their 1937 propaganda exhibit of “Degenerate Art.” Forgotten for many years, the Prinzhorn Collection was rediscovered in 1963, toured Europe, Asia and the U.S., and has led to a reevaluation of what today is known as “outsider art.”

The film tells this remarkable story through archival footage, profiles of Prinzhorn’s patient-artists, footage of their art works, and interviews with psychotherapists, doctors, art therapists, artists, curators, two contemporary outpatient artists and the collection’s current director. In its examination of the relationship between mental states and the creative urge, “Between Beauty & Insanity” raises serious questions about our current definitions of both art and illness. “Between Beauty and Insanity” has won the Adolf Grimme Award (the most important German TV award), in the category of Art and Culture and is also the winner of the Grimme Audience Award.

Commentary by Randy Vick, ATR-BC, HLM, contextualizes Prinzhorn’s work as being a pre-cursor to art therapy.

Total Running Time: 1 hour, 21 minutes



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