Collectors who, like Autolycus the Rogue in The Winter’s Tale, are snappers-up of unconsidered trifles, and whose collections subsequently prove to be of great historic or aesthetic value, or both, excite my admiration for their constructive single-mindedness and foresight. Hans Prinzhorn (1886–1933) was one such, David King (1943–2016) another.

Prinzhorn was a German psychiatrist who collected art produced by psychotic patients in mental institutions, little thinking that many of those artist-patients would be killed, as life unworthy of life, only a few years later in a rehearsal of the Holocaust. Much of the work that Prinzhorn collected was not only of psychiatric interest but also of artistic merit, and after years of use by the Nazis for propaganda purposes and then of neglect, it is now properly housed in a Heidelberg museum that produces...


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