First published: Spring 1999
It is not unknown in the cultural history of mankind for works of art to be hailed as masterpieces in one century, be forgotten in another and, after the passage of time, be rediscovered and again celebrated, often for very different reasons. This also happens to artists who can know cycles of dazzling fame and total eclipse. An example is the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer of Delft (1632-75), whose painting "The Lace Maker" sank (along with the rest of his works) into relative obscurity, only to be unearthed in the nineteenth century, and hailed as one of the key masterpieces of the Louvre Museum in the twentieth. Could a similar situation arise in the all too brief history of Art Brut?
This essay presents a newly rediscovered Outsider masterpiece of the highest quality, a small piece of lace now housed at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington. I say "rediscover" because this small lace piece enjoyed a moment of fame, and was then forgotten. This paper also attempts to return to the light of day a briefly celebrated and now forgotten artist/patient who we shall call "The Lace Maker." We also seek to recover a forgotten but important clinical contribution to the early history of psychoanalysis and psychotic art.