Art Brut
Definition, History, Collection of Raw Art.

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The Dream (1910)
Museum of Modern Art, New York.
By Henri Rousseau, probably the
most famous Naïve artist. Also
see: The Sleeping Gypsy (1897).

Art Brut


The term "Art Brut" (raw art) was invented by the French painter, sculptor and assemblage artist Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) to describe works "created by people outside the professional art world... from their own depths and not from the stereotypes of Classical or fashionable art." (See the English expression Outsider Art.) Although Dubuffet's category of Art Brut embraces any painting or sculpture created outside the confines of contemporary or traditional culture - and thus free from cultural manipulation or influence - he personally was mainly interested in a specific sub-category of this raw art: namely, works by patients in mental hospitals. See also: Primitivism.

West End Village, Tory Island
By James Dixon (1887-1970),
a Donegal fisherman who first
started to paint at the age of 72.

For a general guide to forms
of non-representational art,
see: Abstract Art.
For geometric abstraction,
see: Concrete Art,
or Non-Objective Art.

See: Art Definition, Meaning.

For painting and drawing,
see: Fine Art.
For sculpture and assemblage,
see: Plastic Art.
For ornamental designwork,
see: Decorative Art.
For crafts and design,
see: Applied Art.
For artworks made from salvaged
material, see: Junk Art.
For a general category,
see: Visual Art.
For concepts of beauty,
see: Aesthetics.

Art By Medically Insane Patients

Dubuffet's fascination with Insane Art, was based on its creative purity and on the inspiration it gave his own work. In short, he believed that only Art Brut was untarnished by contact with prevailing cultural values, and this spontaneous expressionism inspired his own original childlike drawings, graffiti scribblings and signs, and was the conceptual base for his primitive-style structure executed without any sense of composition or clear aesthetic characteristics. His sculpture too was based on similar efforts by Art Brut artists. As well as papier mache, hardboard and planks of wood, and a range of "found objects" in the style of Marcel Duchamp's readymades, Dubuffet also mixed grease, sand, and plaster with gloss paint to create a suitably "raw" medium.

Compagnie de l'Art Brut Collection

Dubuffet wasn't the first to be intrigued by modern art created by individuals suffering from mental illness. Interest in the subject had begun to grow during the 1920s, ever since the 1921 publication of the book Ein Geisteskranker als Künstler (A Psychiatric Patient as Artist) by Dr. Walter Morgenthaler, which featured the artworks of the lunatic Adolf Wölfli - notably his 25,000-page pictorial autobiography including 1,600 illustrations, and 1,500 collages. Another seminal work was the 1922 treatise Bildnerei der Geisteskranken (Art of the Mentally Ill), by Dr Hans Prinzhorn. In 1948, along with other artists including Andre Breton (1896-1966), Dubuffet founded Compagnie de l'Art Brut, to handle his collection of art by children and the insane. Known as the Collection de l'Art Brut, and regularly lent for exhibitions at art museums around the world, it now contains thousands of works and is based in Lausanne.

Famous Art Brut Artists

In France, well known Art Brut artists include the painters Henri Rousseau (1844-1910), Joseph Crepin (1875-1948), Augustin Lesage (1876-1954), both spiritualist healers; the monumental sculptor Robert Tatin (1902-83), the painter (on scrap metal) Gaston Chaissac (1910-64); and the junk artist Chomo (Rene Chomeaux) (b.1924). In addition to the above-mentioned Adolf Wolfli (1864-1930), Swiss Art Brut artists include the schizophrenic Aloise (1886-1964) whose specialty is portraits of opera singers executed in coloured pencil. Other noted Art Brut artists include the American painter and assemblage artist Alfonso Ossorio (1916-90).

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