Art Brut before Art Brut

1802 Maine de Biran uses the word “automatism” to refer to mental processes that are uncontrolled by our consciousness.

1812 Dr Benjamin Rush talks about works by the “insane” and underlines the fact that the “insane” had not shown any artistic talent before their illness. He publishes his observations in Medical Inquiries and Observations Upon the Diseases of the mind.

1847 First spiritualist session in the State of New York.

1853 Victor Hugo makes mediumistic drawings while in exile in Jersey.

1857 Allan Kardec publishes Le livre des esprits. Under his real name Léon-Hyppolyte-Denizart Rivail, he analyzes psychic science and starts the Spiritemagazine.

1860 Joseph Octave Delapierre publishes Histoire littéraire des fous and reports that a special place is set aside in the asylum of Hanswell for the resale of “works by the insane.”

1875 Jean Martin Charcot, who is interested in art by the hysterics, creates a photographic department at the hospital of the Salpêtrière. He also rejects the hypothesis that hysteria is only a woman’s illness.

1876 Dr Max Simon uses patients’ art works as clinical documents.

1877 First dated painting by Douanier Rousseau.

1879 Facteur Cheval starts working on his Palais Idéal.

1882 Dr Lombroso, psychiatrist and criminologist, publishes Genio e Follia. He brings together the insane, the saint and the genius.

1889 First spiritualistic world congress in Paris. That same year, Pierre Janet talks about subconscious and publishes L’Automatisme psychologique, essai sur les formes inférieures de l’activité humaine.

1894 The abbé Adolphe Julien Fouré starts sculpting the rocks of Rothéneuf.

1895 Publication of Studies on Hysteria by Sigmund Freud and Joseph Breuer.

1900 First exhibition of works by the insane at the Bethlem Royal Hospital in London.

1901 In his book L’art malade: dessins de fous, Marcel Réja starts making comparisons between drawings made by children and those of “the primitive”.

1905 Auguste Marie, former student of Charcot and Chief Doctor at the asylum of Villejuif, opens a museum with works by some of his patients. This becomes a public space under the name of “Musée de la folie” (museum of madness). That same year, Dr Rogues de Fursac publishes his work Les Écrits et les dessins dans les maladies mentales. 

1907 Marcel Réja publishes L’Art chez les fous: le dessin, la prose, la poésie. He stresses the importance of the artistic value of the works that he describes. That same year Pablo Picasso paints Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

1910 Max Ernst takes psychiatry classes, becomes passionate about patients’ works, and decides to publish a book on the art by the insane. He gives up his project after hearing about the publication of Prinzhorn’s book. That same year, Lucien Lévy-Bruhl writes Les fonctions mentales dans les sociétés inférieures,a book which connects “primitive art” and “art by the insane”.

1911 Eugen Bleuler introduces the word “schizophrenia”, which will replace the term “dementia praecox”. Augustin Lesage hears voices that show him the way to painting.

1912 End of the first cycle of Adolf Wölfli’s work, a pictorial, literary and rythmic cycle entitled From the Cradle to the Grave,and the beginning of the second one, Book of Geography. Paul Klee emphasizes the need to recognize the artistic richness in the works by the insane, as well as by children and in primitive arts. Dr Henri Marcel Faÿ analyzes in Réflexions sur l’art et les aliénés the similarities among certain Fauve painters, Expressionists, Cubists and works by the insane. These writings emphasizing the value of the works by the insane will be abused by the Nazis few years later.

1914 Umberto Boccioni, Italian Futuristic painter, becomes interested in occult and mediumistic phenomena.

1916 André Breton, a medical student, is transferred at his request to a military neuropsychiatric center in Saint-Dizier. He will remain there for five months.

1917 André Breton, a non-resident medical student at the Neurological Center of La Pitié, considers becoming a doctor in an asylum. That same year Hans Prinzhorn starts working on a scientific study and develops a collection of works by the insane in the psychiatric clinic of Heidelberg.

1919 André Breton and Philippe Soupault experiment with automatic writing. The Dadaist painters Baargeld and Max Ernst show their works at the exhibition of “New Tendencies” in German art at the Kunstverein in Cologne along with works by the “insane” and self-taught artists.

1920 Creation of Institut métapsychique in Paris devoted to the rational study of paranormal phenomena.

1921 Dr Walter Morgenthaler, Chief Doctor and Director of the Clinic of Waldau, publishes a monography on Wölfli: Ein Geisteskranker als Künstler. At the Zingler Gallery in Frankfurt exhibition Drawings by the Insane from the Prinzhorn collection. In Hanover, the art collector and dealer Herbert von Garvens shows drawings by the insane. Breton meets Freud, hoping that the father of psychoanalysis gives his point of view on the “art of the insane”. Freud is not interested in this issue.

1922 Dr Prinzhorn’s Bildnerei der Geisteskranken, translated into French as Expression de la folie, is published in Berlin. This basic document has a revolutionary influence in the artistic and literary milieu. Max Ernst brings this book to France, Paul Klee quotes from it in his classes on Bauhaus. Augustin Lesage’s work is shown at the hôtel de ville of Douai.

1923 Jean Dubuffet, while serving in the military at the meteorological center of the Tour Eiffel, discovers Clémentine R., a mentaly ill person who draws and interprets the shapes of clouds. La Fédération spirite internationale is created in Liège.

1924 Publication of the first Manifeste du Surréalisme. “Art of the insane” and the idea of automatism are widely discussed in the manifesto. Jean Vinchon publishes L’art et la folie, in which automatism is considered as the basic element of the artistic expression by the insane.

1925 In no. 3 of La révolution surréaliste, Antonin Artaud criticizes the psychiatrists who think they have the right to “measure the spirit”. He feels the insane are victims of the domineering ideology and he claims for them “the right to their idea of reality and of all the acts which ensue this idea”. Dr Ladame becomes Director of the mental hospital of Bel-Air in Geneva. His psychiatric point of view is based on the so-called moral psychiatry. He considers some productions by his patients as works of art and preserves them in a collection.

1926 The Vavin-Raspail Gallery organizes an exhibition of the collection of Dr Marie. Augustin Lesage shows his works at the Salon des Beaux-Arts and the Salon d’Automne.

1928 Dr Eugène Osty writes about Lesage in the Revue métapsychique. Adolf Wölfli begins the third cycle of his pictorial, literary and rythmic work entitled the Funeral March.

1929 The Max Bine Gallery in Paris presents works from the Prinzhorn collection and from the Bethlem Royal Hospital in London. There are numerous other exhibitions of the Prinzhorn collection in Switzerland and Germany.

1930 Joseph Crépin’s initiation to spiritualism. Dali presents his “paranoiac- critical” method, which consists of creating from the image of an object another image. This method is close to the auto-hallucination experiences used by Max Ernst. André Breton publishes La psychiatrie devant le surréalisme.

1931 André Breton discovers the Palais idéal of facteur Cheval.

1932 Jacques Lacan publishes his thesis De la psychose paranoïaque dans ses rapports avec la personnalité. A study of a young psychotic whose writings are of great quality.

1933 Last exhibition of the Prinzhorn collection before Hitler’s taking power. André Breton publishes Point du jour.

1935 Exhibition On Works of Art of the Insane in New York.

1936 International exhibition of Surrealism in London with a presentation of works by the “insane”.

1937 Opening of the musée des Arts et Traditions populaires in Paris.

1939 Asger Jorn becomes interested in art by the”insane” and works at the psychiatric hospital of Roskilde in Denmark. Dr Ferdière does not succeed in creating a museum of the works by the “insane” unrelated to the hospital.

1943 Dr Ferdière organizes an exhibition of art by the “alienated” in Montpellier.

Birth of the Concept Art Brut

1945 Jean Dubuffet starts collecting, supported by Jean Paulhan, Raymond Queneau, Charles-Albert Cingria, René Auberjonois. With Paul Budry’s help, Jean Dubuffet travels to Switzerland and visits psychiatric hospitals.

1946 Fascicule no.1 of Dubuffet collection on the works of Barbus Müller. I will be distributed only in 1979 by the musée Barbier-Müller.

1947 Baya exhibition at the galerie Maeght. The Foyer de l’Art Brut opens in the basement of the Galerie René Drouin in Paris. Dr Henry Ey organizes a conference on the theme of “Mental medicine and Surrealism”. International exhibition of Surrealism.

1948 Jean Dubuffet starts the Compagnie de l’Art Brut with André Breton, Jean Paulhan, Charles Raton, Henri-Pierre Roché, Michel Tapié and Slavko Kopac. André Breton publishes L’art des fous, la clef des champs in the collection of La Pléiade. Michel Ragon organizes the exhibition Art brut, naÏvisme et littérature prolétarienne at the Gallery Portes de France in Paris. The Cobra Group is founded.

1949 L’art brut préféré aux arts culturels: first exhibition of the Compagnie de l’Art Brut. Jean Dubuffet defines art brut. Gaston Chaissac writes to Jean L’Anselme: “People say I make art brut, but I don’t think that is what I make”.

1950 International exhibition of psychopathological art at the Sainte-Anne Hospital during the First World Congress of Psychiatry. 2000 works are on exhibition.

1951 André Breton resigns from the Compagnie de l’Art Brut. The same year, this organization is dissolved and Dubuffet sends the collection to the painter Alfonso Ossorio who keeps it in East Hampton, New York.

1954 Publication of the book L’art psychopathologique by Robert Volmat, which, among other things, underlines the connection between modern art and art of the “mentally ill”.

1957 At the Hôtel de Ville de Paris the exhibition of works by the “mentally ill”. The Gallery of Beaux-Arts of Bordeaux presents an exhibition entitled Goya et le fantastique.

1958 Exhibition of psychopathological art at the musée des Beaux-Arts of Besançon.

1959 Professor Volmat contributes to the foundation of the Société internationale de psychopathologie de l’expression and becomes its president. 
1960 New ideas are developed in England by the psychiatrists David Cooper, Aaron Esterson and Ronald Laing on the concept of antipsychiatry. They describe madness as the “story of a journey, a passage and not an illness”.

1961 Michel Foucault defends his thesis Folie et Déraison. Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique. 1962 Exhibition of works from the collection of Jean Dubuffet at the Cordier Ekstrom Gallery in New York. Compagnie de l’Art Brut is reconstituted and located at 137, rue de Sèvres in Paris. Gilles Ehrmann publishes Les inspirés et leurs demeures, with a preface by André Breton.

1964 Publication of fascicule no. 1 of L’Art Brut under the direction of Jean Dubuffet. Michel Foucault publishes in the magazine La table Ronde, “La Folie, l’absence d’œuvre”. Exhibition Primitifs d’aujourd’hui at the Gallery Charpentier in Paris.

1965 Final edition of Surréalisme et la peinture by André Breton, including among others a notice on Crépin. Development of the antipsychiatric movement. Chemotherapy is used to treat acute crisis of “mental illnesses”.

1967 Exhibition L’Art Brut at the musée des Arts décoratifs in Paris. 700 works by 75 artists from the collection of the Compagnie de l’Art Brut are shown to the public for the first time.

1969 The Palais Idéal by facteur Cheval is classified as historical monument by André Malraux.

1971 Jean Dubuffet offers the collection of the Compagnie de l’Art Brut to the city of Lausanne.

1972 Roger Cardinal publishes Outsider Art in London. Exhibition Les Primitifs du XXe siècle at the maison de la culture of Rennes. Documenta 5 reserves the whole section to art by the “mentally ill”. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari publish L’Anti-Œdipe.

1973 Gaston Chaissac exhibition at the musée national d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris. Publication of the last fascicule no.9 of the Cahiers de l’Art Brut.

1975 Skira publishes L’Art Brut written by Michel Thévoz. The Walker Art Center in Mineapolis shows Naïves and Visionaries.

1976 Opening of the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne. Michel Thévoz becomes the curator. Harald Szeemann organizes a Wölfli retrospective at the Kunst Museum in Bern.

1977 Renewned publication of the Cahiers de l’Art Brut.

1978 At the musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris exhibition Les Singuliers de l’Art. 
Bruno Decharme begins his collection of art brut, which will become in 1999 abcd / Bruno Decharme collection.

1979 Exhibition Outsiders at the Hayward Gallery in London.

1981 Monika Kinley and Victor Musgrave create “The Outsider Archive”. 
The city of Chartres acquires the house of Picassiette.

1982 Jean Dubuffet names his additional collection “Neuve invention”.

1983 Caroline and Alain Bourbonnais open La Fabuloserie in Dicy. Baya exhibition at the musée Cantini in Marseille.

1984 The collection L’Aracine opens to the public in Neuilly-sur-Marne.

1986 In Venice, the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation shows Jean Dubuffet and Art Brut. In Brussels Art en Marge opens as a center of research and diffusion. In Besançon, at the Palais Granvelle, exhibition Les Indomptés de l’art.

1988 Augustin Lesage exhibition at the musée des Beaux-Arts in Arras and at the musée d’Ethnologie régionale of Béthune. At the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris exhibition Chaissac and Dubuffet.

1989 John Maizels starts Raw Vision.

1990 In New York, at the Parsons School of Design Gallery, Portraits of the Outside.

1992 at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, exhibition Parallel Vision, Modern Artists and Outsider Art which travels to the Kunsthalle in Basel, Museo Nacional Reina Sofia in Madrid and Setagaya Art Museum in Tokyo.

1993 In Lausanne, exhibition of Henry Darger, the Lerner donation to the Collection de l’Art Brut. First Outsider Art Fair in New York.

1994 Opening of the Museum voor Naïve Kunst en Outsider Art de Stadshof in Zwolle, Netherlands.

1995 Exhibition La Beauté insensée from the Prinzhorn collection at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Charleroi, then at the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne. At the Halle Saint-Pierre exhibition Art brut et compagnie, la face cachée de l’art contemporain. Opening of the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.

1996 At the Swiss Cultural Center in Paris exhibition Le dernier continent ou la Waldau.

1997 Musée d’Art moderne of Villeneuve d’Ascq, exhibition of the collection L’Aracine.

1998 In Prague, Czech Republic, exhibition L’Art Brut. At the Halle Saint-Pierre in Paris exhibition Art outsider et folk art des collections de Chicago. In Vienna exhibition Kunst & Wahn.

1999 Creation of abcd.

Art Brut Recently

A number of blogs and websites provide information concerning the most recent exhibitions and publications in the field of art brut.