First published: Spring 2003
‘You ask me why certain critics have classified you as a naïve painter; the answer is, through sheer foolishness. Obviously, you are not a naïve painter. But to infer from this that you should be classified among the ‘savant’ painters – that would be a genuine mistake.’
(Extract from a letter from Anatole Jakovsky to Gaston Chaissac, undated, private collection quoted in Démons et Merveilles, catalogue of the A. Jakovsky International Museum of Naïve Art, Nice, 2002.)
In his ability to enter the world of art galleries and museums, through the contacts made by his son, Michel, an artist and designer, Anselme Boix-Vives (1899–1969) constitutes the unique case of a spontaneous artist, a true ‘outsider’, who experienced instant commercial success and international fame without ever having been claimed by the artistic family to which he ought logically to have belonged, that of Art Brut.
At first, Boix-Vives, like Séraphine de Senlis or Ilija Bosilj, was falsely considered a naïve painter, or vaguely classified as a ‘modern primitive’. Yet this fishmonger, this greengrocer, who in the last seven years of his life painted more than 2,200 unique, inspired pictures, actually exhibited at the Bern Kunsthalle during his lifetime, alongside such notables as Hundertwasser and Louise Nevelson. He also had shows at prestigious venues in Paris (where he aroused the admiration of the painter Corneille and of André Breton), in Lausanne, Geneva, New York and Germany.