Styles & Periods

Styles & Periods

Outsider Art

The term Outsider Art designates a wide variety of non-mainstream aesthetic expressions by uncommon artists ranging from asylum inmates to retired Baptist preachers. Originally a moniker of European origin, it was an attempt to anglicize and make palatable the artist/collector Jean Dubuffet's term “art brut” or “raw art.” Just after WWII, Dubuffet began collecting drawings, paintings and sculptures made by schizophrenics living in Swiss insane asylums--among them Adolph Wolfli, Aloise Corbaz and Heinrich Anton Mueller--and began promoting their compositions as aesthetically viable outside the traditional diagnostic purview of the modern psychiatric establishment. The term Outsider Art was imported to America in the 1970s, appealing to proponents of non-traditional American folk art in the early 1980s. During the eighties, contemporary American folk artists whose work exhibited elements of an unusually intense creative process, including Howard Finster, JB Murry, and Bessie Harvey, were presented to the public as Outsider artists. Today, the term Outsider Art is largely market-driven, and is frequently, if uncritically, used to promote and sell the work of any number of artists falling outside the mainstream art world. A more recent and more useful descriptor is “self-taught,” which describes the creative circumstance of non-mainstream artists without judgment, allowing for a more integrated consideration of their contributions to the world of art.


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