Schröder Sonnenstern
Lunatic or Artist

April 4 2023

After a grotesquely tumultuous life, often in conflict with the law, including several periods in psychiatric hospitals, the founding of a sect and practicing as a fortune teller and healer, Friedrich Schröder Sonnenstern (1892—1982) began to draw at the age of 57. Within three years, he developed a distinctive style that was to cause scandals in a prude Germany of the 1950s, while abroad he was celebrated as an acclaimed artist.

The question Lunatic or Artist? (title of a monograph in which a psychiatrist examines the case of Sonnenstern) seems nonsensical to me, since psychosis and high creativity are anything but mutually exclusive. On the contrary, I feel it’s often a very thin line between museum or madhouse, and mostly depends on the milieu and specific moment in time. The same goes for the use of taxonomies such as art brut or outsider art, that only serve the commodification while being in the way of an unobstructed experience of the oeuvre itself.

Art is a tool for understanding one’s place in the world, a testimony of one’s own subjective experience of life. How close the result is to the consensual reality of others is of no importance.