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Emma Hauck

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Emma Hauck
Born(1878-08-14)14 August 1878
Ellwangen, Germany
Died1 April 1920(1920-04-01) (aged 41)
Heidelberg, Germany
Emma Hauck's letter titled Darling Come

Emma Hauck (14 August 1878 – 1 April 1920) was a German outsider artist known for her artistic, handwritten letters to her husband while she was institutionalized in a mental hospital. Though these letters were never delivered, they have since come to be regarded as works of art due to their abstraction and repetitive content. In many cases the letters consist of only the words "Come sweetheart" or "Come" written over and over in flowing script.


Emma Hauck was born in Ellwangen, Germany, on 14 August 1878.[1] On February 7, 1909, she was admitted to the psychiatric hospital at the University of Heidelberg at the age of 30, diagnosed with dementia praecox[2][3] due to severe psychosis. She had married a schoolteacher four years earlier, and was also the mother of two daughters, her husband and family being subjects of her psychosis.[4] While institutionalized, Hauck wrote a series of letters to her husband which later were considered to be artworks, though she likely did not consider them works of art herself.[2][5] Hauck was released from Heidelberg after a brief stay, though she was later terminally institutionalized at Wiesloch asylum. Hauck died on 1 April 1920 in Anstalt Wiesloch.[1] Her letters are held in the Prinzhorn Collection, Heidelberg, where they were discovered during the time of her death.[6][7][8]


The letters themselves, taken as art, can be considered a form of calligraphy. They also share similarities to asemic writing, in which priority is given primarily to the aesthetic value of the written word, not to its linguistic meaning. Hauck's writing fills the entire page of her letters, in most cases consisting of the repeated phrase "Sweetheart come" (German Herzensschatzi komm and in some instances merely "come" (German "komm"). These words are written in incredibly dense and at times illegible constructions which vary in shading and value. Hauck's motivation for writing these letters is unknown; they are thought to be an expression of her loneliness due to her constant discussion of her family while institutionalized.[citation needed]


Hauck's letters were included in the 2000 exhibition The Prinzhorn Collection: Traces Upon the Wunderblock at the Drawing Center, New York.[9]

In 2000, the Brothers Quay directed the film In Absentia, documenting Hauck's letters.[10][11][12] It was included in the 2013 exhibition Quay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.[13]

In 2019, the Utah-based Pygmalion Theatre company produced the play Sweetheart Come based on Hauck's letters and her life story.[14][15]

In 2021, Amsterdam based photographer Nanouk Prins published a photobook called Empty Forest, based on the letters of Emma Hauck.


  • Écrits d’Art Brut. Graphomanes extravagants, Lucienne Peiry, Paris, Le Seuil, 2020. ISBN 978-2-02-144768-2


  1. ^ a b Beyme, Ingrid von; Hohnholz, Sabine (27 March 2018). Vergissmeinnicht - Psychiatriepatienten und Anstaltsleben um 1900: Aus Werken der Sammlung Prinzhorn. Springer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-662-55532-3 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ a b Usher, Shaun (2014). Letters of Note: Volume 1: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience. Chronicle Books. p. 108. ISBN 978-1-4521-4086-5. Retrieved 27 December 2019.
  3. ^ Cooke, Lynne (2010). Reframing Confinement. ISBN 978-3-7913-5048-6.
  4. ^ "Emma Hauck - Artistes". Outsider Art Fair. Retrieved 4 July 2022.
  5. ^ "Modern Painters". 1997.
  6. ^ "Sammlung Prinzhorn -Emma Hauck (Langtext)". prinzhorn.ukl-hd.de. Archived from the original on 25 July 2021. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
  7. ^ Marshall, Catherine; Thompson, Jon; Ades, Dawn (1998). Art unsolved: The Musgrave Kinley outsider collection. ISBN 978-0-85331-772-2.
  8. ^ "Sweetheart Come". Letters of Note. Wordpress. Retrieved 4 July 2022.
  9. ^ Smith, Roberta (21 April 2000). "ART REVIEW; Where Insanity and Modernism Intersect". The New York Times.
  10. ^ Caballero, Carolina López; Hispano, Andrés (2014). Metamorfosis: Visiones fantásticas de Starewitch, Šankmajer y los hermanos Quay. ISBN 978-84-9803-668-8.
  11. ^ Faber, Liz; Walters, Helen (2003). Animation Unlimited: Innovative Short Films Since 1940. ISBN 978-1-85669-346-2.
  12. ^ "Explore the World of the Quay Brothers with a Spirited Doc from Christopher Nolan | the Village Voice". 18 August 2015.
  13. ^ "Emma Hauck | MoMA".
  14. ^ "Theater Review: Pygmalion Theatre Co.'s "Sweetheart Come"".
  15. ^ "Two spring premieres: PYGmalion Theatre Company's Sweetheart Come by Melissa Leilani Larson; Efren Corado's Dust. Breath. Place. For RDT Link | the Utah Review".