Dammer, Aaltje

Aaltje Dammer was an extremely introverted woman, who always gave shape to her emotions in the same rigorous way. In 1928 – aged just 21 – she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for the first time. According to her papers she worked as a maidservant. She laboured there in the large kitchen, peeling potatoes and washing vegetables until the institution was no longer permitted to function with unpaid workers. Clients like Aaltje Dammer then had to attend activity therapy where they could learn “useful” skills. The reticent Mrs Dammer was unwilling to make macramé or jigsaws and remained rigid in her chair or pacing up and down the room. Suddenly, without reason, she started drawing, on brown paper, with chalk and pencil. She produced drawing after drawing, obsessively. Day after day she would fill pieces of packing paper up to five feet long: musicians, horses with riders, monsters, prams or household objects. In her playful, sometimes obsessive drawings, Aaltje Dammer pictured her fears and her dreams. For her drawings she used rolls of brown packing paper. She could only be stopped drawing by the nurses by tearing the drawing apart from the roll.

Aaltje Dammer
1907 Heiligerlee, The Netherlands - 1978 Zuidlaren, The Netherlands