Begininng in the 1950s, around the time that Oswald Tschirtner entered the Gugging-Klosterneuburg hospital outside Vienna, the Austrian psychiatrist Leo Navratil began encouraging his patients to draw the human figure. Tschirtner, a former seminary student who fought in World War II, allegedly drew only when prompted by Navratil, who was interested in the relationship between schizophrenia and artistic expression. Many art critics have commented on the distinctive economy of expression that characterizes Tschirtner's drawings. His principal subjects are "Kopffüßler"—or "head-footers," whose bodies are minimally delineated shafts in which faces and feet predominate. These sparsely decorated, schematic figures populate his pictures in repetitive groupings that may hark back to his experience of rank-and-file military formations.
Stacy C. Hollander, "Eine Stadt (A Town)," exhibition label for Recent Gifts. Stacy C. Hollander, curator. New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2013.