Wednesday, February 18, 2009

art inspiration: agnes richter

in looking at embroidery artists lately, i was reminded of one of the most memorable pieces i saw when i visited the prinzhorn collection in heidelberg, germany last january: the beautiful and heartbreaking agnes richter jacket.

agnes richter, a patient in a mental asylum in austria in the 1890's, spent her days embroidering text on to the jacket of her hospital uniform in attempts to record her life story. agnes, who had been a seamstress before her incarceration, painstakingly embroidered onto every part of the surface, both inside and out, sometimes so intensively that the text was illegible.

i deeply connected with what i saw as her need to communicate something about herself, to use whatever was available to leave her mark in some way. beyond the emotional gravity of the text and story, the way she transformed something institutional into such an expression of herself is fascinating and inspiring.

because it is so delicate, the jacket is not always out on view. when i visited prinzhorn, it was being kept in an archival box in one the art storage areas. we were taken behind the scenes by the lovely thomas for a special viewing, which is when i took these photos.

more images from this trip are here, and more posts about art inspiration can be found here


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your pictures. I saw the title of a new book "Agnes's Jacket" in Barnes and Noble and wanted to see a picture of the jacket. I don't know that I will ever visit Heidelberg so thanks for letting me "see" the jacket!

Anonymous said...

There was an article about Agnes on All in the Mind (Radio 4) yesterday (you can listen to it via their website if you missed it.) Thanks for making the photos available - fascinating.

JenSwan60 said...

Thanks for the photo. I have just finished reading Hornstein's book, and was sad that she did not include any photos of the jacket. Glad to find you and your blog.

Lindsay said...

Hello! An instructor suggested I look into the Prinzhorn Collection, and through some Google-fu, I found your blog. Hooray! I've been having a hard time finding fibre/artsy blogs to read that aren't just about knitting, anime, or knitted anime.

Wonderful photos.

umelecky said...

Thanks so much for sharing this story. I think all artisits can relate to this. I believe we all hope to leave our mark by the things that we create. I'm going to pick up the book, next time I'm out.

Helen said...

Annell Livingston directed me to your post and blog ... I am so glad she did. This is fascinating!

Melanie Sauer said...

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