Gustav Mesmer, Icarus of Lauteral


Gustav Mesmer, the “Icarus of Lautertal”, as he came to be called, was born in the village of Altshausen in Germany, in 1903. He left school early to work on farms as an indentured child labourer. Then he spent six years in a Benedictine monastery before falling ill and was sent away. He was eventually diagnosed with “gradually progressing schizophrenia” and was locked up in Bad Schussenried mental hospital where he worked as a basket weaver and bookbinder. In 1932, he happened upon a report in the library on the invention of a flying bicycle. This obsession would stay with him for the rest of his life.

He built human-powered flying bicycles that were supposed to take to the air, but his repertoire also included speaking machines and musical instruments. He made countless drawings and diagrams, wrote poetry and prose. His oeuvre is an inexhaustible world unto itself, now presented in full to the public for the first time. Gustav Mesmer died in 1994 and is now regarded as an outstanding outsider artist. This book includes essays by Lucienne Peiry, Juliane Stiegele, Franz Xaver Ott, as well as photographs by Franco Zehnder and Stefan Hartmaier.

550 pages, hardcover, 28 x 22 cm, Edition Patrick Frey (Zurich).