Dr Jacqueline Porret-Forel was born in the Swiss town of Morges on 4 July, 1916, and studied medicine, to become a qualified general practitioner. One day, she discovered the work of Aloïse Corbaz during a lecture given by Professor Hans Steck. Then, in 1941, she came across the artist herself in La Rosière asylum at Gimel, where she was briefly posted. This initial encounter led to regular visits to see Aloïse, when she provided her with the drawing materials she needed. In 1953, she devoted her medical thesis to the artist, under the title Aloyse ou la peinture magique d’une schizophrène (Aloyse or the Magical Painting of a Schizophrenic).
photo © Satoshi Takaishi
Henceforth, she devoted herself to the study of every aspect of the work, and in 1947 brought it to the notice of Jean Dubuffet. The two became joint collaborators on the seventh fascicle of the publication L’Art Brut, which was devoted solely to Aloïse and included Dr Porret-Forel’s lengthy study "Aloïse et son théâtre" (Aloïse and her Theatre).
In 1993, she published a scholarly monograph on the drawings, entitled Aloise et le théâtre de l’univers (Aloïse and the Theatre of the Universe). This was followed in 2004 by a study of the writings: La Voleuse de Mappemonde (The Woman who Stole the Map of the World).
Meanwhile, she gave lectures, collaborated on a good many exhibitions and contributed to several collective publications. Her account of the life and work of Aloïse, and of her personal relationship with the artist, became the subject of a documentary film by Muriel Edelstein: Sans Souci, l’Art d’Aloïse (The Blithe Art of Aloïse, 2000).
A member of the early Compagnie de l’Art Brut in Paris, and a founder member of the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Jacqueline Porret-Forel finally became president of the Aloïse Foundation, which was to produce in 2012 the catalogue raisonné of Aloïse’s works. This project, which she started after her retirement with the help of her husband Étienne Porret, was very important to her; she carried it out with the collaboration of the art historian Céline Muzelle. By means of this electronic catalogue, she hoped to make every drawing and text by Aloïse available to scholars from a wide range of disciplines.
She had spent her whole life writing about Aloïse, deciphering her symbols and teasing out her sources and hidden meanings. Aloïse herself used to refer to her as "the Angel Forel", and the name of Jacqueline Porret-Forel will forever remain associated with the work of this classic exponent of art brut. Geneviève Roulin, John MacGregor, Jean-David Mermod, Roger Cardinal, Maria Azzola, Marc Lamy, and Sam and Betsy Farber were some of her many friends in the art brut community. She will be remembered as a woman of genuine character, with an impassioned commitment, an intellectual liveliness and a tireless curiosity.