The Friern Hospital Collection
The Friern Hospital Collection consists of works created between the years 1930-1960 at the Friern Hospital, which was located in the London Borough of Barnet in the UK. The hospital’s lead psychiatrist during this time, Dr. Alec C. Dalzell, collected and saved his patients’ works in order to share with his staff and students within the hospital. Dalzell was deeply influenced by Hans Prinzhorn’s book, The Artistry of the Mentally Ill (1922), and several of the styles represented in this collection bear a striking resemblance to the ‘schizophrenic masters’ illustrated in Prinzhorn’s work.
This collection represents a new discovery in the field of outsider art, and the works within The Friern Hospital Collection are rare examples dating from the earliest definition of the genre termed “art brut” by the artist Jean Dubuffet. These works were produced by makers without any formal art training, indeed without even the awareness of their creations being art at all. The resulting creative output displays an unfettered directness with a complete lack in inhibition.
By 1945 there were a large number of displaced, war-traumatized persons at Friern Hospital. Images from this group appear to have particularly interested Dalzell and were often reflective of the makers’ past experiences despite the enigmatic quality of much of the collection. After the 1960’s, care at the Friern Hospital was slowly wound down, and in 1993 the old asylum buildings were converted into luxury flats and renamed Princess Park Manor.