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Do Spirits Influence Great Artists?

Posted on 23 October 2023, 9:51

“It is not every medium who is able to get into the headlines of the British press without being ridiculed, but this feat has been achieved by Herr Heinrich Nusslein,” psychical researcher Harry Price wrote in the November 1928 issue of Psychic Research, published by The American Society for Psychical Research.  Price mentioned that more than 200 of Nusslein’s paintings were on view in London galleries at the time.

artists

Price went on to explain that Nusslein (1879-1947, upper left photo), of Nuremberg, Germany, was advised by a business friend to develop the psychic powers he believed him to possess.  Nusslein was described as “scornfully sceptical” but soon discovered he had a gift for automatic writing – mostly scraps of verse, odds and ends of forgotten knowledge, and, later, grandiose descriptions of his own psychic powers and productions.  He then began producing some crude automatic drawings, the quality of which improved after some experimenting.  This all took place during or around 1923, when Nusslein was in his mid-40s.  Today, Nusslein is considered one of the most famous mediumistic or visionary artists.  He claimed that deceased artists such as Albrecht Durer guided his hand, but many references stop short of saying that his visions were inspired by artists in the spirit world. 

“In approximately two years, Nusslein, who had only one-ninth of normal vision, painted some two-thousand pictures,” Price further explained. “He always paints from imagination and memory, never from models, no matter what the subject. Except that ‘a spirit message’ on one occasion warned him to abstain from painting for six weeks, his powers are constant.”  He added that Nusslein produces his pictures under varying degrees of consciousness and that many of them are painted from “visions” which appear to him and these were painted in complete darkness.

“The technique employed by Nusslein is very curious,” Price continued. “Some of the painting look as if his hands only had been used in producing them. The finger strokes are distinctly visible in many of his subjects and he has an almost uncanny gift for producing the impression of crowds of people or spirits, and processions with a very few strokes.” He completed a painting in anywhere from five minutes to forty minutes, his actions said to be “with lightning rapidity.” His ‘Lemure Scene from Faust’ (upper right, top) was completed in 18 minutes, while ‘Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony’ (upper right, bottom), required 23 minutes.

“Another method of obtaining a portrait is for [Nusslein] to get en rapport with a distant sitter,” Price wrote. “The resultant ‘psychic portrait’ (not necessarily a likeness) takes about three or four minutes.  He can also ‘project himself’ into distant lands or epochs of the past and he then paints what he ‘sees’ there. In the same way, Nusslein is clairaudient and states that he ‘receives messages’ from historical characters of past ages. On one occasion he stated that he had received a message from ‘Peter Libidinsky,’ a magician at the Persian Court in the Middle Ages. The resultant painting, ‘The Magician,’ was a highly imaginative portrait.”

Spirit Sculptor’s Influence

It was also during the 1920s that Bessie Clarke Drouet, an American sculptor (1879 -1946, lower right photo) living in New York City began developing as an automatic writing medium while sitting with other mediums to observe various phenomena.  In her 1932 book, Station Astral, Drouet tells of various influences on her work from the spirit world. At one sitting with direct-voice medium Maina Tafe, she asked her deceased father if anyone was helping her with her sculpture of Diana (lower left photo). Her father replied that many sculptors were there helping her, one of them being Bourdelle, a notable French sculptor, a contemporary of Rodin’s who finished many of his works after he died.

At a later sitting, a voice broke in, saying, “This is Ordway Partridge speaking. I heard you remark about the arm of Diana. I want you to know I helped you with it.  I impressed you to walk over and change the position of it. Now I like it. I had been trying for a long time to find you in a receptive mood, so I could get a message through to you, and that day I did.” Partridge further commented that there were many sculptors in her studio, including Bourdelle, working with her. 

At another sitting with Tafe, Drouet again asked if someone in the spirit world was helping her. “Peter Bruer, Peter Bruer, Peter Bruer, Berlin,” the response came, followed by a comment in the German language which nobody understood. The name was not recognized, but she was then told by another communicator, in English, that Bruer was a German sculptor who lived in Berlin and had died about three years earlier. At still a later sitting, Jean-Antoinie Houdon, a famous French neo-classical sculptor, communicated, stating that he and others were trying to assist her.

Seized with an Impulse to Paint

During January 1907, Dr. James Hyslop, the founder and director of the American Institute for Scientific Research, which was devoted to the study of abnormal psychology and psychical research, was consulted by Frederic L. Thompson, a New York City goldsmith. Thompson informed Hyslop, a former Columbia University professor of logic and ethics, that around the middle of 1905 he was “suddenly and inexplicably seized with an impulse to sketch and paint pictures.”  Prior to that, he had no real interest or experience in art beyond the engraving required in his occupation. The impulses were accompanied by “hallucinations or visions” of trees and landscapes.  He explained that he sometimes felt like a man named Robert Swain Gifford   At times he would remark to his wife that “Gifford wants to sketch.” 

Thompson had met Gifford some years earlier in the marshes of New Bedford, Massachusetts, as he was hunting and Gifford was sketching. Thompson recalled talking to Gifford for a few minutes on one occasion and just seeing him on a couple of other occasions.  Also, he once called on Gifford to show him some jewelry, but that was the extent of their contact. 

During the latter part of January, 1906, Thompson saw a notice of an exhibition of Gifford’s paintings at an art gallery and went to see them.  While looking at one of the paintings on exhibition, Thompson heard a voice in his ear saying, “You see what I have done.  Can you not take up and finish my work?”  It was then that he learned that Gifford had died on January 15, 1905, some six months before he developed the interest in painting. “Whether genuine or not it had sufficient influence on the mind of Mr. Thompson to induce him to go on with his sketching and painting,” Hyslop said of the voice.  “From this time on the impulse to paint was stronger, and between this date and the next year he produced a number of paintings of artistic merit sufficient to demand a fair price on their artistic qualities alone, his story being concealed from all but his wife.”

Hyslop arranged for Thompson to sit with three mediums, all resulting in evidence of influence from Gifford. “Superficially, at least, all the facts point to the spiritistic hypothesis, whatever perplexities exist in regard to the modus operandi of the agencies effecting the result,” Hyslop ended the report. (The Thompson-Gifford case was discussed in more detail in my blog of August 22, 2011.)

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: November 6



Comments

Dors, thanks for mentioning Augustin Lesage.  Among the more current, I might add Akiane Kramarik, known for her painting “Prince of Peace” at age 8. She has been quoted:

“Religious art of sculptures, reliefs and paintings in one of the parochial schools I attended greatly influenced my later attraction to legendary figures. For the first time I got to encounter the world’s view of what divinity was supposed to be, but deep down I felt that I perceived everything in a much broader and deeper sense. It appeared to me as if most people were completely ignorant of other realities, or that the realities they perceived were seen only from a very narrow angle.”

Michael Tymn, Sun 29 Oct, 02:14

Art like beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  I too have not learned to appreciate abstract art, generally, and find it to be more of an exhibition of design prowess rather than artistic ability. And yes, I tend to prefer realistic paintings like those of Norman Rockwell and many others like Andrew Tischler, a current-day artist, and those that paint in that same realistic style. I do like Monet, especially of his middle period before he lost his eyesight. I, unapologetically, cannot appreciate the spirit paintings that look like they were done by a 6-year-old in their first-grade finger- painting class. (Probably because I have never raised a 6-year-old.) - AOD

https://applecrossart.com/artists/andrew-tischler/

Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 24 Oct, 23:28

Stafford, thanks for the info on Gasparetto. I intend to look at some of you-tubes, as soon as I overcome my first bout with COVID.

Amos and Rick, an art critic I am not.  I prefer Normal Rockwell type paintings.  Most of the abstract stuff doesn’t do much for me.  My wife is a big Monet fan and we visited his home and gardens in France about 20 years ago. However, I can take him or leave him.

Yes, Keith’s you-tubes provide a lot more information on this subject. I highly recommend them.

Michael Tymn, Tue 24 Oct, 21:45

The greatest of all spirit artists is almost surely the Brazilian physician Luiz Gasparetto. I wrote of him in When Did You Ever Become Less by Dying? Afterlife: The Evidence. Here it is:

      Not all mediums work with words; some paint.  The most celebrated is a Brazilian physician, Luiz Gasparetto. He claims to channel 40 deceased masters, from da Vinci to Picasso.  He says that he feels their presence inside his body and sees them in spirit.  How can we tell it’s not him but them doing the painting?  YouTube videos show him at work.  We see him, not them.
      The evidence consists in the astonishing manner in which he works.  We don’t see the spirit masters, but we know from experience that no human painter can do what we see him doing.  Artists themselves are particularly certain of this.  We are left with an anomaly. Either we take Gasparetto’s word for it, or we are left with no explanation at all.
      He works rapidly, his hands almost a blur.  His eyes are closed, his body weaving left and right, down and up.  His hands work simultaneously, one painting in one corner of the canvas in one artist’s style, the other in the center in another’s.  After five minutes both pictures are complete, each recognizably the work of the artist whose name Gasparetto signs.  Staff writer Dick Roraback of The Los Angeles Times described what he saw on another occasion:
      As the man works, his eyes are tightly shut, his expression a tenuous alliance of grimace and grin.
      In precisely 1 minute and 35 seconds, the drawing is done.  The man tosses the canvas to the floor, face down.  He pauses just long enough to grab a second canvas, then sets to work again at an equally furious pace.
  Within 15 minutes, six canvases are produced: four in pastels; two in acrylics, the latter done without brushes, with bare hands nd fists working paint dabs squeezed out of tubes.
  The first drawing is held up.  It is recognizably Renoir.  Then there is a Manet, a Toulouse-Lautrec, a Modigliani. . . . Later in the week there will be a Picasso, a Goya, a Van Gogh.

      He died in 2018, and there are quite a few videos showing him at work. Here is the best:

Not all mediums work with words; some paint.  The most celebrated is a Brazilian physician, Luiz Gasparetto.  He claims to channel 40 deceased masters, from da Vinci to Picasso.  He says that he feels their presence inside his body and sees them in spirit.  How can we tell it’s not him but them doing the painting?  YouTube videos show him at work.  We see him, not them.
The evidence consists in the astonishing manner in which he works.  We don’t see the spirit masters, but we know from experience that no human painter can do what we see him doing.  Artists themselves are particularly certain of this.  We are left with an anomaly.  Either we take Gasparetto’s word for it, or we are left with no explanation at all.
He works rapidly, his hands almost a blur.  His eyes are closed, his body weaving left and right, down and up.  His hands work simultaneously, one painting in one corner of the canvas in one artist’s style, the other in the center in another’s.  After five minutes both pictures are complete, each recognizably the work of the artist whose name Gasparetto signs.  Staff writer Dick Roraback of The Los Angeles Times described what he saw on another occasion:
As the man works, his eyes are tightly shut, his expression a tenuous alliance of grimace and grin.
In precisely 1 minute and 35 seconds, the drawing is done.  The man tosses the canvas to the floor, face down.  He pauses just long enough to grab a second canvas, then sets to work again at an equally furious pace.
  Within 15 minutes, six canvases are produced: four in pastels; two in acrylics, the latter done without brushes, with bare hands nd fists working paint dabs squeezed out of tubes.
  The frist drawing is held up.  It is recognizably Renoir.  Then there is a Manet, a Toulouse-Lautrec, a Modigliani. . . . Later in the week there will be a Picasso, a Goya, a Van Gogh.

      The best part of all this is that you can see him at work on a number of videos online. The best is the one from 2010, nine minutes in length.
      I regard Gasparetto on par with the famous chess match as evidence for survival. What Gasparetto does is definitely not from our world. Take a look.

Stafford Betty, Tue 24 Oct, 19:53

I’m pleased to introduce you to or remind you of Augustin Lesage (1876–1954), a French coal miner who became an accomplished painter and artist through the help of what he considered to be spirit voices.

Dors, Eastern Europe, Tue 24 Oct, 15:52

In case anyone might be interested in seeing Thompson’s paintings, I made a Youtube documentary (17 mins) entitled ‘The Thompson-Gifford Case’. It includes much detail about this man’s very strange life, with several paintings of Gifford’s and Thompson’s compared at the very end. See here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZFoppY6bc0&list=PLLB-82YMhiPFPKSm2Ke69aK0DKTftpvo0&index=14

Also in response to Amos, you can see numerous remarkable precipitated paintings by the Bangs sisters and others in my documentary Forgotten Mediums part 2. The section on precipitated paintings begins at 16.20 in from the start:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1FVMlxPtqw&list=PLLB-82YMhiPFPKSm2Ke69aK0DKTftpvo0&index=42

Keith P in England, Tue 24 Oct, 07:41

I had never heard of Heinrich Nüsslein, but a quick search on Google Images turns up quite a few sites that display his work. For me, on a brief perusal, their quality varies quite a bit. Some are oddly compelling dreamlike visions, as if seen through a scrim between this life and the next. Others are disturbing with their acidic coloring featuring orange and brown.

Village Antiques in Switzerland, which apparently handles his art, says in its description:

“Working in a trance-like state, Nuesslein executed each painting with extraordinary rapidity. Most took less than 15 minutes to create. During his 20 some years of artistic activity, he is estimated to have created some 20,000 fantastic, spiritualist landscapes, populated by ghost like figures and otherworldly temples and ruins.”

As to the question of spirit influence, it seems probable. The more I learn of the paranormal realm, the more I am convinced that we are all influenced by spirits to one degree or another. If a person is not receptive, the suggestions from inhabitants of other planes of being probably go unnoticed and are rejected. For the majority, the guidance of noncorporeal personalities rises to the surface of consciousness only occasionally (particularly when the recipient is engaged in an activity they find interesting or enjoyable).

Artists surely tend to perceive spirit influence more strongly than others do. Some acknowledge it, like Nüsslein. It may be picked up by an artist’s followers: You look at William Blake’s illustrations and are struck by their alternative-world quality. Leonard Bernstein said, “Of all composers, it was Beethoven who had a direct line to God.” Whether it was a direct line to God is questionable, but it’s hard to doubt his creativity was nurtured by contact with spirits of high degree.

Rick Darby, Tue 24 Oct, 00:34

Thanks Michael for posting information about the medium Herr Heinrich Nusslein and his creative paintings.  As one continues to research mediumship, it becomes evident that there are many people, some well-known and many more not well known who claim that they were helped in their creative efforts by spirits in an afterlife. It has been reported that Mozart heard complete music compositions in his head and he simply wrote down what he heard thereby producing beautiful music.  Rosemary Brown also seemed to be helped by deceased musicians to write piano music compositions in their own distinctive style.  Similar to Mozart, Pearl Curran heard a voice in her head and saw visions which she used to write down hundreds of poems, short stories, plays and novels.  Geraldine Cummins also heard voices in her head and saw visions which enabled her to write “The Scripts of Cleophas”. And apparently the prize-winning poet and novelist James Merrill produced his large work, “The Changing Light at Sandover” by using the Ouija board to make contact with many spirits.  Albert Houghton Pratt claimed that he communicated with O. Henry to write a new collection of stories through a Ouija board.  I am sure there are many more, some of which most of your readers are familiar with.


I am not impressed with Nusslein’s paintings but they are what they are, I suppose.  Neither do I totally buy-into the Thompson-Gifford story but the Thompson paintings at least had some quality about them and did resemble the paintings of Gifford which as an ex-painter I would not find difficult to replicate.

I am impressed with the precipitated portraits produced by the Bangs sisters with spirit help and the Campbell Brothers because they are of very high quality and display advanced artistic skill and such high-quality portraits were produced in a matter of several minutes in some cases, something that seem impossible to do by normal means.  I have not found an explanation how they were produced by mechanical means that satisfactorily describes a process they used to produce these precipitated paintings, many of which are on display at Lily Dale spiritual camp in New York and at Camp Chesterfield in Indiana.

There are occasional times when I feel that I am helped to write things. Most of the time, I just suppose that it is my subconscious mind helping me.  -  AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 23 Oct, 18:06


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