What is Art Brut?

The links between art and madness were first explored by the romantics in the 19th century. The latter raised the madman to the rank of "hero in secret communion with the forces of destiny"; however, it was not until the beginning of the 20th century that artists began to appreciate the plastic production of the mentally ill.

These avant-garde artists, such as Pablo Picasso and Paul Klee, belonged to a new generation that was interested in formal distortion and expressionism.

Dubuffet, denouncing the selective and repressive nature of official culture, invented the concept of art brut in 1945, which designates works produced by individuals without artistic culture, outside artistic norms and conventions. After collecting a collection of children's drawings, he turned his attention to the works of the mentally ill and other self-taught artists. He also collected the art of mediums like Lesage and Pigeon. Despite often significant stylistic differences between these works, the group was united by Dubuffet's faith in raw nature which would arise as an injunction dictated by their "inner selves". Art brut is a spontaneous and inventive art, beyond any effect of harmony and beauty.

"By this we mean [outsider art] works executed by people unscathed by artistic culture, in which therefore mimicry, contrary to what happens among intellectuals, has little or no part, so that their authors draw everything (subjects, choice of materials used, means of transposition, rhythms, ways of writing, etc.) from their own background and not from the clichés of classical art or fashionable art. we are witnessing the pure, raw artistic operation, reinvented in all of its phases by its author, based solely on his own impulses..."

Jean Dubuffet (Art brut preferred to cultural arts, October 1949)

Some artists belonging to the "art brut" category are mentally ill.

Dubuffet, like Nietzsche, believes that artists are by definition asocial beings whose powers of innovation come from a refusal to settle for the order of things. For him, madness is at the height of individualism, and his creative outbursts are particularly successful and homogeneous.

Automatism, which is a founding element of the graphic expression of the mentally ill, plays an important role in art brut. In the language and the image of the raw paintings, there is a knowledge drawn from the depths of the psyche and from madness.