This pioneering work, the first history of the art of the insane, scrutinizes changes in attitudes toward the art of the mentally ill from a time when it was either ignored or ridiculed, through the era when major figures in the art world discovered the extraordinary power of visual statements by psychotic artists such as Adolf Wlfli and Richard Dadd. John MacGregor draws on his dual training in art history and in psychiatry and psychoanalysis to describe not only this evolution in attitudes but also the significant influence of the art of the mentally ill on the development of modern art as a whole. His detailed narrative, with its strangely beautiful illustrations, introduces us to a fascinating group of people that includes the psychotic artists, both trained and untrained, and the psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, critics, and art historians who encountered their work.
"The psychotics who haunt Mr. MacGregor's pages desperately fling images at us from the midst of their manias, suicidal depressions or paranoid reconstructions of the cosmos. . . . Mr. MacGregor is able to show that their work is by no means sealed off from culture. However private their visions, the ways they represent them in art are shaped to a surprising degree by the styles and taste that dominate their respective times. Mr. MacGregor has written a valuable, at times even a daring book."--Michael Vincent Miller, The New York Times Book Review
File created: 11/11/2014