First name:
20th century
Field of expertise:
Fine arts
Place of birth:
Perchtoldsdorf (CHE)
* 24.05.1920
† 20.05.2007
Biography print

Austrian artist and long-term psychiatric patient.


Oswald Tschirtner (1920-2007) was born in 1920 in Perchtoldsdorf, Lower Austria. He attended an archiepiscopal boarding school and aspired to become a priest but was not admitted to study theology. He served as a signalman during WWII, survived the battle of Stalingrad, and was released from a POW camp in France in 1946. Due to his wartime experiences, he suffered from post-traumatic anxiety states, insomnia and feelings of guilt and powerlessness. Diagnosed with “schizophrenia”, he was committed to the psychiatric clinic of the University of Vienna in 1947 and remained an inpatient for the rest of his life. He spent much time praying and seemed to find relief in his Catholic faith. He also stayed in close contact with his family, who paid him regular visits.


Tschirtner was transferred to the national mental hospital Maria Gugging in Klosterneuburg in 1954. Motivated by the Gugging psychiatrist Leo Navratil, he took up drawing in the 1960s. However, he had to be motivated time and again, as he tended to abandon his artistic work whenever he withdrew into himself. From 1981 onwards, he lived in a therapeutic community at the institution’s Zentrum für Kunst- und Psychotherapie (Centre for Art and Psychotherapy, renamed “Haus der Künstler” – House of Artists – in 1986). There he developed his own, distinctively unique style (Navratil 1985: 252 ff.). He created fine-lined shapes and silhouettes that remind of kneeling “cephalopods”, for instance, or depict entire landscapes. He participated in all exhibitions of the Gugging group, and his minimalistic drawings were widely appreciated by both art critics and the public. Oswald Tschirtner died in 2007, aged 87, at the House of Artists.



Büttler, H. (1982): Zur Besserung der Person. Mit Johann Hauser, Ernst Herbeck, Edmund Mach, Oswald Tschirtner, August Walla. Film, Fotos, Zeichnungen, Prosa, Gedichte. Gümlingen: Zytglogge.

Feilacher, J., O. Tschirtner (1997): Menschen mit Heiligenschein. Cologne: Wienand.

Herbeck, E., O. Tschirtner, L. Navratil (eds.) (1979): Bebende Herzen im Leibe der Hunde. Munich: Rogner & Bernhard.

Kraft, H. (1986): Grenzgänger zwischen Kunst und Psychiatrie. Cologne: DuMont.

Navratil, L. (1983): Die Künstler aus Gugging. Vienna: Medusa.

Navratil, L. (1985): Schizophrenie und Dichtkunst. Munich: dtv.

Navratil, L. (1987): Drei Künstler aus Gugging. Franz Kernbeis, Philipp Schöpke, Oswald Tschirtner. Düsseldorf: Galerie Heike Curtze.

Tschirtner, O., D. Ronte, (1980): Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts. Vienna: Museum Moderner Kunst.

Tschirtner, O., J. Feilacher (1997): Das rote Zebra. Cologne: Wienand.


Robin Pape


Referencing format
Robin Pape (2015): Tschirtner, Oswald.
In: Biographisches Archiv der Psychiatrie.
(retrieved on:06.12.2023)