Connection of art and crime: When murderers paint - Panorama

US serial killer Samuel Little draws pictures of his victims in prison. The FBI is trying to solve old cases. About artistic criminals and criminal artists.

The Gallery of the Unknown Dead is on a website of the American FBI: a good two dozen portraits of young women, with expressionless faces and red lips, painted with chalk, crayons, and watercolors. Unmistakably the drawings have the same originator, because they have similarities in the style, in the color, in the style. But can one say that: style? It is not an artist who has painted these women. But her alleged murderer, Samuel Little, 79, US serial killer of Högel'schem extent.

Little has confessed to a total of 93 murders committed over 35 years in 14 states. In 2014, he was already convicted of three murders, he was given life three times. Little cooperates with the police. Make drawings in prison, which the investigators then publish. They hope that someone recognizes the women, that they can find names, let deaths be clarified. Apparently, Little sees himself as an artist, he can paint the portraits of his victims from memory.

Crime The killer in the Hollywood Hills

The killer in the Hollywood Hills

Michael Gargiulo is said to have stabbed three young women, the court records read like the script for a film noir. Ashton Kutcher appears in a supporting role.By Jürgen Schmieder


As a painting inmate, Little is not an isolated case. An American has long since made a business model of it. In his online shop "Serial Killers Ink" he sells artworks from prison, pictures by Thomas Odle (five murders) or Richard Ramírez (13 murders). Loud imageNewspaper he also had a few years ago, a picture of the famous killer and cult leader Charles Manson on offer, of course, the art regulates less the market price than the scary factor.

Artists and criminals – companions?

And yet, sometimes quite banally asked: Is there actually a connection between art and crime, between creativity and crime? The artist Joseph Beuys once wrote that artists and criminals are companions. "Both are without morality, have a crazy creativity, only driven by the power of freedom."

The cultural history, which at least can be said, is pretty much full of rough fellows. The French poet François Villon killed a priest in 1455 in a brawl. The painter Caravaggio has stabbed a competitor and beaten rivals, he has been indicted and convicted several times. And the renaissance sculptor Benvenuto Cellini is even a serial offender with his three murders.

Crime Creativity and crime


Samuel Little confessed to killing 93 women. But it is not clear if the number is really correct – 34 acts are guaranteed.

(Photo: AP)

Of course, those were wild times back then. But what about Karl May? He was imprisoned for years because he was a notorious thief and impostor. Even Henri Charrière, who wrote "Papillon", may be assigned to the criminal milieu, as well as the French writer and crook Jean Genet. On Pablo Picasso's brutality and sadism have reported women who had to do with him. And Wolfgang Beltracchi, who demonstrated the art market as a forger by his ingenuity, was also a criminal after all, albeit a somewhat likeable one.

The Belgian painter Luc Tuymans has the mirror In other words, Western culture would look quite different, "and not all the criminal but art-loving renaissance princes would have existed, and the painters who liked to move in the vicinity of power." Art, Tuymans said, has something to do with dependency and perversion. "In that sense, we artists are just criminals."

The special status of the genius

And what do scientists say? There is no solid statistical basis for believing that creativity and crime are related. But when asked whether artists, because of their intellectual or psychological disposition, were more willing to violate norms, the Berlin art historian Horst Bredekamp once said in the SWR that the artistic genius had always been "attributed a special status". "And this has always put pressure on him to act a bit differently than a banker or a merchant, not only in the factory but also in his behavior."

Update: Ever since #MeToo is the geniuses of today, see Kevin Spacey, Woody Allen or Michael Jackson, the special status probably gone completely flutes.

Incidentally, the question of whether genius and madness are connected, philosophers and psychologists have been debating since antiquity, whereby it is made clear that only a few mental illnesses increase the dangerousness of a person anyway. Some experts see a causal link between extreme creativity and mental disorder, suggest, for example, that manic phases are accompanied by creative spurts. Others hold that only famous isolated cases support the thesis of the gifted psychopath. Austrian court psychiatrist Adelheid Kastner says studies have shown "that psychopathology per se does not encourage creativity".

And back to prison inmate Samuel Little. Which drive he probably paints? Who knows. He probably just has a lot of time.

Crime study object

object of study

Amanda Knox, the "Angel with the Frozen Eyes", visits Italy for the first time since her acquittal. She is accompanied by a flood of scientific papers on the murder of her roommate.By Thomas Steinfeld


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