Friday, August 14, 2015

Arty Farty Friday ~ Adolf Wölfli, Outsider Artist.

There's a post from earlier this year about an Outsider Artist, George Widener, here.
A look at another "Outsider" today:
Adolf Wölfli.

Adolf Wölfli, born on 29 February 1864 near Bern, Switzerland, suffered an horrendous childhood: mentally and physically abused, orphaned early, failed attempts in a variety of manual work roles, and some army service brought on withdrawal and social isolation. Aged 26 he was imprisoned for his attempted molestation of two young girls; then aged 31, after molesting a 3-year old girl he was committed for life to Waldau, a mental institution near Bern, and diagnosed as being schizophrenic. After 4 years in the asylum he began to draw.

This 3 minute video shows a few examples of Wolfli's art, and musical composition. Many more are at Google Image .

Some detail taken from a 1989 article in the LA Times by Kristine McKenna follows.

ART REVIEW : Adolf Wolfli: His Art Emerged From Madness

....He began to pour out the tormented workings of his memory and imagination onto paper. Drawing and writing obsessively, this untrained novice who'd had no known exposure to art hammered out a visual vocabulary of such originality and power that his body of work stands as one of the cornerstones of Outsider Art (the popular designation for art created by persons who, either by choice or fate, are isolated from society). Working up until his death in 1930, Wolfli completed 25,000 pieces and went through several distinct periods.

The first thing one notices about Wolfli's work is how suffocatingly dense it is. Walking a tightrope between picturing and manic patterning, Wolfli constructed labyrinthine mazes with no point of entry or exit. Pulsating with organic life, his patterning--which employs everything from clock hands and buildings to snails and birds--is evocative of musculature one minute, an illuminated manuscript the next.

Executed in plain and colored pencil on newsprint that was bound into books, Wolfli's largely autobiographical art was essentially an attempt to mythologize himself. Interspersing real facts from his life with fantastic tales of adventure that constituted the life he longed for, Wolfli chronicled scientific explorations and pleasure trips, personal disasters and redemption, tales of war and reconciliation.

Encrusted with musical notation and beautifully scripted German text, his drawings also feature maps of cities from around the world, an occult numbering system, ideas for social and political reform, and investment strategies with interest calculations. Wolfli had a highly pronounced sense of order, and his detailed renderings of elaborately developed systems are widely interpreted as his defense against his chaotically schizophrenic interior life. Simultaneously perceiving himself as a persecuted child, an intellectual giant and a god, Wolfli had several different signatures for his work, including "Cast-Off Accident," "St. Adolf-Great-Great-God," and "Grim Casualty"; three or more of his identities often appear on the same drawing.

Empty space terrified Wolfli and he rarely used perspective or attempted to depict three-dimensional forms in space, because such forms imply a surrounding emptiness. Ascending balloons, a favorite recurring motif, represent Wolfli's yearning for heaven, but alas, Wolfli had no faith that his sins would be forgiven and his balloons always plummet to earth. Unsociable and plagued by hallucinatory voices that were often violent, Wolfli gave further evidence of his conflicted inner life in his depiction of himself; the eyes of the male figure who appears in most of the drawings are dark, hooded and filled with fear.

One of the many astonishing things about Wolfli's work is the fact that while all of his work bears his unmistakable stamp, no two works are remotely alike. The tonal range he got out of a simple lead pencil is astonishing, as is his feverishly inventive imagination. He had no musical training, yet he composed reams of music over the course of his life, and productions using Wolfli's richly cadenced text as librettos have been staged in Europe and the United States. Though he had no more than rudimentary training in math, numbers fascinated him and "Wolfli the Allgebrahtor," as he dubbed himself, devised impossibly complex formulas and equations.

In 1915, Wolfli began constructing collages that combined his drawings with images cut from popular periodicals, and his unerring sense of composition really shines in these remarkably modern-looking works.


Born on 29 February 1864, Bern, Switzerland. Chart set for 12 noon - time of birth unknown.

The Grand Trine in Air signs linking Mercury, Uranus and Saturn offers a hint that Wolfli would always have had a good measure of mental acuity, however his life pattern had unfolded. His early background of abuse would have affected this in ways we cannot properly imagine. A close sextile between Venus (planet of the arts) in Aquarius and Neptune (planet of creativity) in Aries led his gravitation to art during his long incarceration. Another close sextile, this between Sun (self) and Pluto (darkness), can be linked by two quincunx aspects to Saturn (work) in Venus-ruled Libra - which does kind of describe the way he was able to channel his own darkness through working on his art.

Without a time of birth Moon's exact position can't be established, nor can his rising sign and degree.

UPDATED chart showing position of Chiron:

Four more examples of his work:


mike said...

A tale of natal astrology and consequences of the environment here! It is difficult to feel sympathy for child molesters, but their story is a continuation of the same crimes against them at an early age, as it appears to be with Wolfli. It's easy to feel for the abused child, but not the perpetuation once an adult.

It's interesting that he was recognized for his multi-talents, yet his resources such as paper and pencils was so limited. I would think his caretakers, art recipients, and those appreciating his talents might have done better for him. I'm not sure if his preferred medium was graphite or if he simply wasn't offered other possibilities such as watercolors, oils, clay, etc, to explore. The offering of newsprint for his artwork implies that his handlers didn't foresee the necessity for his drawings to survive the years ahead or they would have supplied a higher quality.

His early years precluded that his air grand trine was utilized for social and emotional excursions from the normal. I think that trine would be troublesome under the best of circumstances, certainly offering unique qualities under the best conditions. His grand trine is probably what kept him going while in captivity, allowing him to ignore the constraints and perhaps giving him a feeling of security and mental freedom. Can't know his Moon's position, but I'm inclined to push for early Sagittarius, making Moon trine Neptune, square Venus.

I like his art...something satisfying about viewing his work and I like his selection of colors. It's as if the incongruity he lacked in real life he could create on paper.

LB said...

Twilight ~ Great post, very synchronistic too. I like the artist's work a lot. Maybe you already mentioned it, but Wolfli was drawing mandalas, usually (but not always) a symbol containing a circle within a square, or a square within a circle, representing the universe and our spiritual connection to infinity or the divine. According to Carl Jung, the mandala was also a symbol of psychospiritual unity or wholeness.

I picked the following link partly because I liked the author's explanation and also because I think one of the mandala images (the one with the deep blue background) is so beautiful:

Apparently Jung was so fascinated by the healing potential of mandalas, he drew one every day. Anyway, when I googled it, I discovered Carl Jung owned two of Wolfli's creations:

For a while now, I've been reading a lot by Jungian authors, some of it related to the connection between creativity and the gold in our shadow, something Wolfli seems to have naturally (?) discovered for himself. He had a sad life, but hopefully he eventually found some kind of peace locked away in a place where he no longer posed a significant threat. At least there he could safely explore his depths and give his pain (and his genius) a creative voice.

Makes me want to pull out my colored pencils and draw my own mandala.:)

Twilight said...

mike ~ Thanks for your observations. Yes, I agree on Moon position, Sagittarius would seem to be the better bet.

I like his artwork too. I like the blend of fine detail, jam-packed multiple styles and images in each piece. they are, I suppose, doodles par excellence! The Rolls Royce of doodles. :-)

Off topic ~ I've just received e-mail attachments from UK lawyers regarding my cousin's estate, and delays in distribution of same. There are, they say, complications still to be sorted so can give no estimate of when it will be distributed to beneficiaries. Hmm, things have hardly moved on since April/May/June then, far as I can tell. It's a substantial estate so I suppose it benefits them to be slow pokes!

Anyway, you're good at prediction, mike: at present trans Saturn conjoins my natal Mars at 28 Scorpio. That sounds like a delaying factor of "something". It will move to the 29th degree on 2 September, and into Sagittarius on 19 Sept. Once in very early Sag. it will trine my natal Pluto at 0 Leo. Because Scorpio and Pluto have links to inheritance, would you suppose that things might begin to move around mid-September? The lawyers have indicated that due to complexities they might be able to consider doing an "interim disbribution". I'm only one of 11 - but I know one other of the 11 cousins has a birthday 3 days before mine, so will have similar placement I think. Mid-September might be a good time to expect an "interim distribution" - do you agree - or is there something else I should be looking for?
As for full distribution - I can only hope it happens before I shuffle off myself! ;-)

Twilight said...

LB ~ Yes, I almost mentioned the mandala link, but left it, suspecting that someone would pick it up. :-) Glad to see you've done so.

Wolfli's incarceration might have been the only way his talent for art would ever have emerged. Had his childhood been less difficult, leading to a relatively blameless adulthood, he'd probably have emerged as a brilliant composer, author or maybe a politician or great leader. It's a pity another Adolf, born some 25 years later in Germany, wasn't incarcerated for life, so that his artistic talent emerged and buried the rest!

I like looking at mandalas. Don't know whether you've seen this post from 2008

LB said...

Just noticed something else. Wolfli's Chiron in Pisces was *exactly* conjunct his Pisces Sun and both were close to his Ceres in Pisces ~ maybe this represented a spiritual wounding (Chiron) to his sense of 'self'(Sun), somehow connected to his very real and earthy need for cosmic mothering (Ceres in Pisces)?

Whether we receive it or not, as children, we all need to feel unconditionally loved, spiritually and physically connected to our first caretakers, usually our mothers.

Pisces is the sign of divinely inspired creativity, isolation, even imprisonment. In prison, he was able to make good use of his chart's exact sextile to Pluto in Taurus, which, as you already pointed out, allowed him to "channel his own darkness through working on his art." Yes.:)

LB said...

Twilight ~ Good point about the other Adolf.:(

Thanks for the link to your post about astrological mandalas, wondered if you'd mentioned them before. I hadn't read your post, wasn't reading anyone's posts back in 2008.

I have an autistic friend who's very interested in sacred geometry, along with a number of other complex subjects. When we get together he usually gives me something to research so we can discuss it during our next visit. One of my recent 'homework assignments' was sacred geometry.:) Can't say I have a good handle on the subject, but I do appreciate how certain universal ideas (and symbols) make themselves known to us organically, without our having studied them.

Twilight said...

LB ~ Oh well- spotted! Yes, Chiron conjunct Sun is a very good fit for his experiences.
(I must fiddle around and get Chiron back on the charts my software throws up).

I too flounder around once I get past a certain point in Sacred Geometry (or any other kind of geometry also!) I always intended ordering one of the mandalas from the people involved in that website - but never did get around to it. I suppose other stuff got in the way. 2008 was the year of my Citizenship interview and the stuff leading up to that got in the way of a lot of things!)

Twilight said...

LB ~ Have added an updated chart showing Chiron - thanks again!

LB said...

Twilight ~ Maybe you could experiment and try drawing a mandala yourself. You're obviously creative.:)

Glad you found the Chiron connection interesting.

mike (again) said...

I always like giving advice...LOL! The natal chart I made for you has a 19*43' Cancer ascendant, which puts your Placidus 8th house cusp at 5* Aquarius (9th house cusp 24* Aquarius) and your natal Sun is in the 8th at 6*47' Aquarius. Your Moon is 24*58' Aries, 10th house.

8th house dispositors: Sun in Aquarius disposited by Uranus-Taurus--->Venus-Sagittarius--->
Sun in Aquarius disposited by Saturn-Aries--->Mars-Scorpio

Jupiter and Mars are both the final dispositors, the rulers of your 8th house (and are also the final dispositors, the rulers of ALL your planets).

Your natal Mars, one of the final rulers of your 8th, is conjunct transiting Saturn and the brakes are on. Transiting Jupiter, the other ruler of your 8th, just completed squaring your natal Mars conj transiting Saturn...expansion meets contraction. Transiting Venus has squared this same point once forward on July 14th, then retrograde on Aug 4th. Venus went retrograde at 0* Virgo, so Venus was essentially in square for three weeks. Transiting Jupiter conjuncted transiting retro Venus at 28*35'Leo on Aug 4th...your natal Mars is 28*55' Scorpio. Venus rules money in general. Your natal Mars and Jupiter rule your 8th house of inheritance. Note that your natal Jupiter is in your 9th house (Pisces) of foreign affairs. Transiting Venus will retrograde into your 2nd house (the ruler of money) in your house of money, which opposes your 8th house. Transiting Sun will be at 28* Leo on Sept. 21st. When Venus moves forward on Sept. 6th at 14* Leo, some of the difficulty with your inheritance may resolve. However, transiting Mars will be at 28* Leo Sept.22nd and transiting Venus will be at 28* Leo on Oct. 6th.

As the transiting Sun, Mars, Venus, and Jupiter end their square to your natal Mars conj transiting Saturn, they all move into Virgo and will oppose your natal Jupiter at 6* Pisces, the other ruler of your 8th house. At the same time, transiting Neptune will have retrograded back to 8* Pisces. These adverse aspects don't clear-out until the third week of October and there is an excellent transiting Mars-Jupiter conjunction October 17th, with transiting Venus opposed your natal Jupiter, which I interpret as good. Then Venus-Jupiter conjunction on October 25th. I would predict that October 17th onward is conducive toward settlement of your inheritance.

Note that September 26th has transiting Sun-Jupiter conjunction at 3* Virgo, with transiting Mercury at 28* Virgo sextile your natal Mars and transiting Saturn. You may receive some positive, related news around this time, but I wouldn't expect a resolution for another couple of months.

BTW - Late November has transiting Jupiter beginning a lengthy, due to retrograde, square to your natal Venus at 20* Sagittarius. This square needn't be thought as negative, but it could impede your inheritance, if it hasn't been settled by then. By March 2016, transiting Jupiter will begin a lengthy square to transiting Saturn at 16* Virgo-Sagittarius.

mike (again) said...


House positions (Placidus)
Ascendant Cancer 19°43'19
2nd House Leo 5°27'56
3rd House Leo 24°20'08
Imum Coeli Virgo 20°00'52
5th House Libra 27°16'43
6th House Sagittarius 13°01'16
Descendant Capricorn 19°43'19
8th House Aquarius 5°27'56
9th House Aquarius 24°20'08
Medium Coeli Pisces 20°00'52
11th House Aries 27°16'43
12th House Gemini 13°01'16

mike (again) said...


Uranus square Ascendant Mid-May 2015 until mid-January 2017
Jupiter opposition Jupiter From 4 September 2015 until 13 September 2015
Jupiter trine Uranus Mid-October 2015 until mid-June 2016
Jupiter sextile Ascendant Mid-November 2015 until end of July 2016
Jupiter conjunction IC Mid-November 2015 until end of July 2016
Jupiter conjunction Neptune Mid-December 2015 until mid-August 2016

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Oh wow! Many, many thanks! I didn't expect as much detail - it must have taken ages to sort out. I'm grateful. It will be interesting to see how near events match transits, aspects, and dates. I shall report back as things occur. I'll copy the details you've outlined to my Wordpad for easy reference.

Thank you, once again. :-)

mike (again) said...

Your welcome...always pleased when I can assist my favorite blogger!

I omitted a discussion of your natal Pluto trine transiting Saturn at 0* Leo-Sagittarius, because the trine is complicated by your natal Mars conjunct transiting Saturn aspect. It may be that the nPluto-tSaturn aspect heralds the inheritance, with the action potential of the inheritance messed-up by the nMars-tSaturn conjunction and the related 28* Leo squares. If either of the first two dates below seem significant to your inheritance, the Sept 18th date may be important, too.

December 23, 2014 Transiting Saturn at 0* Sagittarius
June 14, 2015 Transiting retrograde Saturn at 0* Sagittarius
September 18, 2015 Transiting Saturn at 0* Sagittarius

mike (again) said...

Oh, geez, I'm becoming more and more text-slang oriented! Last comment, first word should be "You're".

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ :-) (blushes).

Re those additional dates:
Thinking cap donned - trying to think back to Dec 23 2014 - around Christmas time.

Well now, that was really when it all started for me. I had sent one of my cousins ("M") in Yorkshire, a printed copy of my 4 family history posts with a Christmas card. (I'm pretty sure I sent it printed because I don't have an e-mail address for her). In her Christmas card to me I got the first hint of at least one inheritance to come. She told me that my aged aunt had died and that she had given solicitors dealing with her estate my address. On 22 January I received an e-mail from another cousin ("E") to whom "M" had passed on the family history posts. "E" told me that cousin Stephen had died in October, and his father, my uncle, had already died (in 2007). I didn't know at that point that the cousins would be beneficiaries in Stephen's estate - only in the estate of my aunt (my late Dad's share of that I have already received).

In following weeks I also received e-mails from two other cousins to whom copies of the family history posts had been sent by "M" or "E", thanking me, and mentioning estate of our aunt.

Realisation that we would be beneficiaries of Stephen's estate didn't come until mid-June (13th) when cousin "E" passed on a copy letter from solicitors in Cambridge dealing with Stephen's estate. Around the same time I received the first official letter from the Yorkshire solicitors re aunt's estate, asking for various identification documents notarised etc. The Yorkshire solicitors are also now liaising with the Cambridge lot.

So... dates close to 23 December 2014 and 14 June 2015 were somewhat significant in the unfolding tale, mike. I shall watch for anything of interest around 18 September.

Thanks again for helping with this. It is keeping my mind occupied and preventing me from exploding with excitement! Anyjazz suspects the whole thing could take years (to calm me down and stop me rushing out to buy a new car, I suppose!) ;-)

mike (again) said...

An astro FYI for ya. Did you know that you were born with Venus at its maximum western elongation? Venus was rising before the Sun with the greatest separation possible. Very few individuals have this astrological signature! It's also called Venus Lucifer direct:

"Venusian qualities become more pronounced, and the emotional nature more active and responsive, between the time of Venus' maximum brightness and its maximum elongation from the Sun (about 47 degrees ahead of the Sun); that is, about thirty-six to seventy-two days after its inferior conjunction with the Sun, while Venus is still moving through the zodiac slower than the Sun."

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ No - I'd never come across Venus Lucifer direct before. It sounds a bit scary - the Lucifer part! Thanks for the link - it doesn't sound too bad though.
Looked up Lucifer definition. Wiki says: "shining one, morning star" LOL!! I should change my screen name - I'm at the wrong end of the day with it. :-)