Abandoned by his father at the age of seven, Adolf Wölfli remains alone with his mother. Following her death, he is placed in a number of peasant families. In 1890, arrested for indecent assault, he is imprisoned. As a result of a second offence, he is interned in 1895 in the psychiatric hospital of Waldau, where he remains until his death. He starts to draw, write, and compose music at the age of thirty-five, working from morning to night. From 1904 on, his output is preserved and studied by Dr. Walter Morgenthaler. Wölfli’s colossal opus of some 25,000 pages includes an imaginary autobiography, graphic compositions, collages, literary works, and musical scores.
Jean Dubuffet brought back only one work by Adolf Wölfli from his tour of Switzerland in 1945, but shortly after, Dr. Morgenthaler sent him 120 more for a special show at the new Foyer de l’Art Brut, these 120 works traveled back to Waldau after the show. During his visit to Waldau in 1948 Dubuffet obtained another six works from doctors at the hospital, and he acquired another three in 1949.