Wilhelmine Assmann 1908-09

Mediumistic artist Wilhelmine Assmann (1867-43) from Germany was well known in the early part of the 20th Century for creating beautiful and curious spirit drawings. She began to draw them in 1905 and they were widely exhibited from 1908-09, frequently attracting attention from the press in Germany, France, Holland and the UK. The following report was published in the British Spiritualist Newspaper, Light on the 2nd January 1909:

The Berlin correspondent of ‘ The Morning Leader ’ reports that the exhibition of the remarkable pictures drawn by Frau Assmann, while in a state of trance, has just closed. He says:— The daughter of a poor miner near Halle, her life was full of work and hardship; she married a poor man, and now, at forty-six, is still scantily supplied with this world’s goods.

Mediumistic Drawing by Wilhelmine Assmann Circa 1909

Four years ago Frau Assmann began to develop these trance conditions, which have baffled many of Germany’s greatest doctors and scientists. She gave a ‘seance’ for the benefit of the Berlin Press one day, and all declared themselves face to face with an inexplicable fact, humbug being outside the question. Her seances are simplicity itself, taking place in full daylight. She seats herself at a table, holding a bunch of crayons in her left hand, concentrates her gaze upon the paper before her, retiring into herself, so to say. Her face becomes rigid, her eyes dilate, and then operations begin. Taking the crayons one by one, Frau Assmann draws, with lightning rapidity and unerring precision, the outlines of flowers such as mortal eyes have never beheld. The blossoms and foliage are huge in size, brilliant in colouring, and filled in with myriads of tiny specks, the execution of which would drive anyone under normal conditions—as a famous Wiesbaden doctor stated—to the verge of lunacy.

There is little shading and no perspective to speak of, but these pictures fascinate, startle, and compel admiration by reason of their bold outlines and delicate minutiae. In some of the pictures strictly geometrical forms stand out among the fantastic blossoms, on seeing which one is convinced the artist must have carried off many a prize for free-hand drawing. As a matter of fact, Frau Assmann never had a drawing or painting lesson in her life, nor has she ever practised drawing or been interested in art.

An earlier report in November 1908 from the publication Annals of Psychical Science contradicts the speed in which Assmann completes her work and states “Experts have certified that these pastels are of refined execution which has not up to now been equalled, and that some of them exhibit great patience. Madame Assmann admits having worked for as much as fifty hours on a single drawing, and artists estimate that this is no exaggeration. Her work thus differs from that of other mediumistic painters, which is generally executed with great rapidity. It is also interesting to note that this medium is not able to work upon these pastels whenever and as often as she desires : she must feel the impulse, and this inspiration comes to her at moments when she is least expecting it, very frequently at night. Whenever it comes she must obey it.”

Today, the whereabouts of Assmann’s pastel spirit drawings are mostly unaccounted for and await rediscovery except for a small collection that was recently discovered by Annegret Kubiak in Assmann’s home town of Halle. My thanks to Annegret for sharing her research and confirming the birth and death dates of this artist.

Mediumistic artist Wilhelmine Assmann was just one of several artists working at the turn of the century in Europe. See our Artists page for others like her such as Heinrich Nusslein, Frieda Gentes, Madge Gill and Karel Lissa.