Franz Karl Bühler was born in Offenburg. He worked in his father’s smithy during his school years. In 1886 and 1887 he studied at the arts and crafts schools in Karlsruhe and Munich and received an honorary diploma at the competition and exhibition of German artisans for his handcrafted oven screen. In 1893 he was invited to teach at Strasbourg School of Arts and Crafts and also travelled to the Chicago World’s Fair where he was awarded a gold medal for his wrought-iron gate system.
After three years as a teacher, he was fired from the Strasbourg school for his eccentric behaviour. Intelligent and talented, lively and energetic, Bühler was also exaggerated and fierce and made many enemies. In 1897 and 1898 he lived in Hamburg, didn’t have a job and spent a lot of money on theatre and brothels. He was sexually very active and contracted a venereal disease.
During his Hamburg years, Bühler’s paranoia progressed and he developed delusions about being followed, which brought him first to a mental hospital in Breitenau, Switzerland, then to Illenau and finally to a treatment and care home in Emmendingen, where he ended up spending most of his life. A majority of his prolific oeuvre was also completed there.
In 1919, Hans Prinzhorn became interested in Bühler’s work. Prinzhorn valued his work so highly that he elevated him to the top artists in his book.
In 1940, Franz Karl Bühler fell victim to the systematic “life unworthy of life” actions of the National Socialist regime. He was taken to Grafeneck Euthanasia Centre and killed with carbon monoxide.