Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève Belle-Idée,
Die Sammlung des “Asile de Bel-Air”
In nineteenth-century Geneva, the mentally ill were committed to three institutions in the following historical sequence: the “Maison de la Discipline” (1800–1832), the “Asile de Corsier” (1832–1838), and finally the “Asile des Vernets” (1838–1900), which housed 90 patients. In 1900, the “Asile de Bel-Air” was opened in Chêne-Bougeries, a rural village outside the city.
Until 1924, Bel-Air, which was built for 350 patients, was directed by Rudolphe Weber, whose successor was Charles Ladame (1871–1949). From 1924, Ladame introduced proper training for nursing staff and work therapy for patients. Based on his collection of patients’ works, he established a small museum. Ladame loaned works to Waldemar Deonna, who included them in an exhibition of the Prinzhorn Collection at the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Geneva in February 1930. In 1945, Eugène Pittard, director of Geneva’s Museum of Ethnography, introduced Ladame to the artist Jean Dubuffet, who visited several psychiatric hospitals in Switzerland. Ladame gave Dubuffet the works of five patients, which were exhibited as the “Le cabinet du Docteur Ladame” at the Foyer de l’art brut in Paris in 1948. Thirty years later, Professor Julian de Aujuriaguerra (1911–1993) gave approximately another twenty drawings and objects, as well as Ladame’s private archive, to the Collection de l’Art Brut. Well-known artistss from the holdings of the Collection de l’Art Brut include: Julie Bar (1868–1930); Robert Gie (1869–?), a carpenter from Solothurn, who was a patient at Rosegg clinic from 1908–1922: Joseph Heuer (1827–1914), a patient first at the Asile des Vernets and after 1900 at Bel-Air; Jean Mar (1831–1989), who made drawings and produced small objects using threads, leaves, and flowers that he glued together with bread; and Berthe Urasco (1898–?). Florence Choquard has inventoried 28 drawings by two drawers, one male, the other female, which are kept in the Bel-Air archive among hitherto unexamined records and writings. The archive includes approximately 30 works written by patients during the period 1900–1930.
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