Viktor Schroeder was born in Hamburg in 1946. He studied medicine and became a general practitioner in a small village in the mountainous Harz region of Germany. In his mid-twenties Schroeder suffered a psychological breakdown following the death of Anja Roth, a nine year old girl he had tragically misdiagnosed. Although an atheist Schroeder describes his breakdown as being ‘religious’ in nature.
After his breakdown Schroeder visited Kingsley hall, the residential treatment centre founded by controversial psychiatrist R D Laing. Laing had gained a cult following amongst counter cultural figures such as Allen Ginsberg for his unorthodox approach which included the use of LSD to treat psychotic patients. It was during his visit to Kingsley Hall that Schroeder discovered painting and it was Laing who instructed him to paint a portrait of Anja Roth in an attempt to free himself from the trauma which had precipitated his breakdown. The experiment failed and Schroeder became increasingly obsessed by death.
On his return to Germany Dr Schroeder continued to indulge his obsession and became fascinated by historical artworks that dealt with man’s mortality. Over the next 30 years he put together a remarkable collection of memento mori, vanitas paintings and historical reliquaries. Schroeder also started his own life’s work - the obsessive production of paintings, sculpture and objects, the subject of which was his struggle to come to terms with the inevitability of his death.
Schroeder still lives in a village beneath the Harz Mountains where he continues to create works and build his collection. It is only recently due to a chance encounter that his remarkable body of work has been discovered and Dr Schroeder has kindly agreed to allow some of it to be shown for the first time.
‘I have spent my life trying to reconcile myself with the fact of my own mortality.’
Dr Viktor Schroeder. Harz, Germany. October 2012.