Raw Vision's Definitions

Printer-friendly versionSend by email

The controversy surrounding the exact definition of Outsider Art and allied fields has been going on ever since awareness of the phenomenon began but definitions can also clarify.


Johann HauserAloise CorbazJean Dubuffet's original term for the works that he collected and revered; later adopted by the Collection de l'Art Brut at Lausanne. Art Brut means 'Raw Art'. Raw because it is 'uncooked' or 'unadulterated' by culture. Raw because it is creation in its most direct and uninhibited form. Not only were the works unique and original but their creators were seen to exist outside established culture and society. The purest of Art Brut creators would not consider themselves artists, nor would they even feel that they were producing art at all. Art Brut is visual creation at its purest - a spontaneous psychic flow from brain to surface.
(examples: Aloïse Corbaz, Carlo Zinelli, Madge Gill, Johann Hauser, Adolf Wölfli).


Ferdinand ChevalBill TraylorThe term 'Outsider Art' was introduced as the title of Roger Cardinal's book in 1972 and was originally intended to act as an exact English equivalent to Dubuffet's term, although from the outset it encompassed not only Art Brut but also works in the Neuve Invention category Over the years it has been used increasingly loosely and can often now refer to any artist who is untrained or with disabilities or suffering social exclusion, whatever the nature of their work.
(examples: Adolf Wölfli, Johann Hauser, Chomo, Bill Traylor, Schroder-Sonnenstern, Ferdinand Cheval, Simon Rodia).


Gaston ChaissacAlbert LoudenDubuffet realised that there existed many creators whose work was of comparable power and inventiveness to Art Brut, but their greater contact with normal society and the awareness they had of their art works precluded their inclusion within his strict Art Brut category. These creators were often humble workers who created in their spare time, or eccentric and untrained artists trying to make a living from their work - some of whom had dealings with commercial galleries. As an acknowledgement to them he formed his 'Annex Collection'; in 1982 this became the Neuve Invention section of the Collection de l'Art Brut. As definitions become more merged this term is losing its significance.
(examples: Gaston Chaissac, Mario Chichorro, Rosemarie Koczy, Gerard Lattier, Albert Louden, Frederich Schroder-Sonnenstern).


Danielle JacquiOdy SabanA term more used in Europe relating to the works of artists, usually, but not exclusively, self-taught, that are close to Art Brut and Outsider artists, both in appearance and directness of expression. These are the artists 'on the margins', that grey area of definition that lies between Outsider Art and normal mainstream art, very similar to Dubuffet's Neuve Invention category. Art Singulier encompasses French marginal artists.
(examples: Chomo, Danielle Jacqui, Raymond Reynaud, Ody Saban).


William EdmondsonBill HawkinsA simple and direct term that has become much used in North America. Originally pertaining to the indigenous crafts and decorative skills of peasant communities in Europe, the term was later applied to the simply-made practical objects of colonial days - a combination of charm and practical craftsmanship. In contemporary terms, Folk Art can cover anything from chain-saw animals to hub-cap buildings as well as the work of artists that would easily fall into the realm of Outsider Art.
(examples: Sam Doyle, William Hawkins, William Edmondson, Mose Tolliver).


Thornton DialMr. ImaginationA popular term in the United States which avoids the stigmas that some feel are attached to the Outsider Art definition. Many American artists are already pushed to the outer limits of society as a result of prejudice and feel this term offers more dignity.