Art Brut

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(Fr.: ‘Raw Art’).

Term coined in the mid-1940s by Jean Dubuffet for art produced by people outside the established art world—solitaries, the maladjusted, patients in psychiatric hospitals, prisoners, and fringe-dwellers of all kinds. In English, the term ‘Outsider art’ (the title of a book by Roger Cardinal, 1972) is sometimes used to cover this type of work. Dubuffet claimed that such art—‘springing from pure invention and in no way based, as cultural art constantly is, on chameleon- or parrot-like processes’—is evidence of a power of originality that all people possess but which in most has been stifled by educational training and social constraints. He began to make a collection of Art Brut in 1945, and in 1972 he presented it, by then numbering more than 5,000 items, to the city of Lausanne, where it was opened to the public at the Château de Beaulieu in 1976. Although nearly half the collection was produced by patients, usually schizophrenics, in psychiatric hospitals, Dubuffet repudiated the concept of psychiatric art, claiming that ‘there is no art of the insane any more than there is an art of dyspeptics or an art of people with knee complaints’. He also distinguished Art Brut from naive art on the more dubious ground that naive painters remain within the cultural mainstream, hoping for public recognition, whereas Art Brut artists create their works for their own use as a kind of private theatre.

Subjects: Art.

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