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August Natterer

German, 20th century.
Born 1868, Ravensburg, Germany; died 1933, Rottenmünster, Germany.


August Natterer was initially known as August Neter, a pseudonym assigned to protect his identity by psychiatrist Hans Prinzhorn in his seminal 1922 study of asylum artists. Natterer was one of "Ten Schizophrenic Artists" whose work was recognized by Prinzhorn as being worthy of consideration as art, not simply diagnostic evidence. Neter's chillingly precise drawings and paintings, produced to record his hallucinations, inspired Surrealist artists who freely appropriated images and ideas from Prinzhorn's book soon after it was published.

Born in 1868, Natterer was a talented electrician and mechanic, whose ability to design and fabricate machines earned him employment with the University of Wuerzburg. Unemployment and hardship contributed to his deterioration, and he was eventually hospitalized after attempting suicide. His increasing concern with an impending apocalypse manifested in a precipitating vision marked by thousands of rapidly appearing images that would subsequently become the focus of the artists' extensive archive of small drawings and paintings on paper and cardboard and paper.

Natterer's works conjure unsettling, quasi-religious avatars in a precise style that draws the viewer into his visionary experience with haunting conviction. His lack of academic art training allowed for the evolution of an oeuvre singularly devoted to an elaborate universe populated by shape-shifting witches and otherworldly, unstable landscapes. The artist's belief that he would be a divine player in an endtimes event charges his works with a palpable urgency. It is not surprising that Natterer inspired Surrealists, including Salvador Dali, who emulated his visual strategies, but could never rival his achievement. 

- Jenifer P. Borum


Selected Exhibitions

2006, Inner Worlds Outside, traveling exhibition, Sala de Exposiciones de la Fundacíon "La Caixa," Madrid; WhiteChapel Gallery, London; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin

2004, Exhibition Weltachse mit Haase. The hallucinatic drawings of August Natterer, Prinzhorn Collection, Heidelberg, Germany

2001, From Kirchner Till This Day: Artist Reaction of the Prinzhorn Collection, Prinzhorn Collection, Heidelberg, Germany

1992, Parallel Visions: Modern Artists and Outsider Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles

Selected Collections

Anthony Petullo Collection, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee
Collection abcd, Paris
Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia
Prinzhorn Collection, Heidelberg, Germany

Selected Bibliography

Inner Worlds Outside, exhibition catalogue, Fundacíon "La Caixa," WhiteChapel Gallery, Irish Museum of Modern Art & Ediciones El Viso, Madrid, 2006.

Röske, Thomas, "August Natterer," Raw Vision, #51, Summer 2005.

Natterer, August, Inge Jádi, and Bettina Brand-Claussen, August Natterer: Die Beweiskraft Der Bilder : Leben Und Werk : Deutungen, Wunderhorn, Heidelberg, 2001.

Tuchman, Maurice and Carol S. Eliel, Parallel Visions: Modern Artists and Outsider Art, exhibition catalogue, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 1992.

Prinzhorn, Hans, Artistry of the Mentally Ill: A Contribution to the Psychology and Psychopathology of Configuration, Springer-Verlag, New York, 1972.

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