Adolf Wölfli was born in Bern, Switzerland in 1872, the youngest of seven brothers. His father, Jacob, was by trade a stonecutter, but he was also an alcoholic and a criminal. He spent much time in jail, and consequently, Wölfli’s mother, Anna, worked as a laundress to support herself and her family. By the time Wölfli was five, his father had completely abandoned the family, and died a few years later.
His mother, having fallen ill, took herself and her youngest son back to the family’s native community in Zaziwil. Because they had no financial assets, Anna and her son were sent to work in exchange for their food and shelter with area farm families, and in the process were separated from each other. The following year, 1873, she died and the orphaned eight-year-old was obligated to continue working as a child hireling. In his various situations, he encountered harshness, mistreatment, and overwork, but did manage to complete his formal education in 1879.
When he was eighteen, he fell in love with the daughter of a wealthy farmer. Her parents, vehemently opposed to the affair, forbade their daughter to have anything to do with him, on account of his low social status. Heartbroken, Wölfli left Zaziwil and returned to Bern. (read more)
Thanks to Art Found Out for finding this artist!