Adolf Wölfli

Adolf Wölfli, (1864-1930), is a major figure of Art Brut. He was born to an extremely poor family in Bowil, Switzerland and moved to Bern that same year. He was raised solely by his mother, after his alcoholic father left them. Wölfli attended school sporadically until the age of nine when he began to work as a goatherd. His mother died and his custody was passed between a variety of families. Wölfli earned his living as a woodcutter, farmhand and laborer.

In 1889, he was arrested for assault and spent two years in prison. Upon his release, Wölfli committed another offense and was interned, at the age of thirty-one, in Waldau hospital, near Bern, Germany, where he remained until his death in 1930. At Waldau, Wölfli took up drawing, writing and composing, working from morning to night for the next thirty years. His work attracted the interest of Dr. Walter Morgenthaler, who wrote a monograph about him. Wölfli's oeuvre is vast consisting of twenty-five thousand pages of graphic compositions, musical scores and literary works.


Art, Madness – Chocolate. Adolf Wölfli, Kunstmuseum Bern, Bern, Switzerland

Adolf Wölfli: Creator of the Universe, City Gallery Prague –House at the Stone Bell, Prague, The Czech Republic

All Things Round: Galaxies, Eyeballs & Karma, American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore, MD

Adolf Wölfli: Alibi und der Kontinent Südmeridian, Kunstmuseum Bern, Berne, Germany

Adolf Wölfli Univers - LaM - Lille Métropole musée d'art moderne, d'art contemporain et d'art brut, Villeneuve d'Ascq, France

Inner Worlds Outside [traveling exhibition], Sala de Exposiciones de la Fundacíon "La Caixa," Madrid; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland

The Art of Adolf Wölfli: St. Adolf-Giant-Creation, American Folk Art Museum, New York, NY

The World of Adolf Wölfli, Goldie Paley Gallery, Moore College of Art, Philadelphia, PA

Adolf Wölfli, Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, Switzerland

Parallel Visions: Modern Artists and Outsider Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA

Adolf Wölfli, Centre Pompidou –Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, France


Vestiges and Verse: Notes from the Newfangled Epic, American Folk Art Museum, New York

World Made By Hand, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY

Purple States, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY

On the Border, Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau, Switzerland

Recent Acquisitions (And Some Thoughts on the Current Market), Galerie St. Etienne, New York, NY

Art Brut Masterpieces and Discoveries, Galerie Christian Berst, Paris, France

The Wall, La Collection Antoine de Galbert, La Maison Rouge, Paris, France

From Radiance and Dissolution, Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin, Germany

Outsiders, Naïve and Autodidacts, Haifa Museum of Art, Haifa, Israel

Now Here is also Nowhere: Part II, Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA

Story Lines, Galerie St. Etienne, New York, NY

Accidental Genius: Art from the Anthony Petullo Collection, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI

All Folked Up! Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY

Night Scented Stock, Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, NY

Sous le vent de l’Art Brut, Collection Charlotte Zander, Halle Saint Pierre, Paris, France

Intuition, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, England

The World Inside Out: Art Brut from the ABCD Collection in Paris, Museum Dr. Guislain, Ghent, Belgium

In Through the Out Door, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY

Approaching Abstraction, American Folk Art Museum, New York, NY

Messiahs, MODEM Centre for Modern and Contemporary Arts, Debrecen, Hungary

Deux Pièces, Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zürich, Switzerland

Dubuffet & Art Brut [traveling exhibition], Museum Kunst Palast, Dusseldorf; Collection de l'Art, Brut, Lausanne; Museum of Modern Art Lille Metropole, Villeneuve-D'ascq, France


Stone, Lisa. Accidental Genius: Art from the Anthony Petullo Collection. New York: Prestel Publishing.

Inner Worlds Outside. Exhibition catalogue. Fundacíon "La Caixa"/Whitechapel Gallery. Madrid: Irish Museum of Modern Art & Ediciones El Viso.

Dubuffet & Art Brut. Exhibition catalogue. Düsseldorf: 5 Continents Editions & Museum Kunst Palast.

Spoerri, Elka, Adolf Wölfli, Daniel Baumann, and Edward M. Gomez. The Art of Adolf Wölfli: St. Adolf-Giant-Creation. New York: American Folk Art Museum.

Spoerri, Elka. Adolf Wölfli: Draftsman, Writer, Poet, Composer. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Morgenthaler, Walter, and Aaron H. Esman. Madness [and] Art: The Life and Works of Adolf Wölfli. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Tuchman, Maurice and Carol S. Eliel, eds. Parallel Visions: Modern Artists and Outsider Art. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art.


American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore, MD
Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne, Switzerland
Museum of Fine Arts, Bern, Switzerland