Roger Cardinal was a great visionary writer and art historian. Born in 1940 in Bromley, UK, he taught for 50 years at the University of Kent in Canterbury, latterly as a professor. Cardinal wrote books on a range of subjects but it was his revolutionary book Outsider Art for which he became best-known. Published in 1972, it was the very first work in English on the subject and gave the world the name “Outsider Art”, originally as an English equivalent to Dubuffet’s art brut definition.

In 1979 Cardinal co-curated “Outsiders” at London’s Hayward Gallery with Victor Musgrave, presenting the great masters of outsider art in an exhibition that had a profound and lasting impact.

Roger Cardinal’s influence in the establishment of an entire new field of contemporary art is immeasurable. The whole incredible rise of outsider art around the world in the last 30 years, especially in the anglosphere, stems from his book and writings. It has seen thousands of books and publications, hundreds of specialist libraries and collections, huge museum exhibitions in many cities and thousands of art gallery shows all around the world. He was the one who sparked the magic of outsider art.

Cardinal passed away in November 2019.


Caption: Cardinal, 2017, photo: Roger McDonald
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