Art Term

Outsider art

Outsider art is used to describe art that has a naïve quality, often produced by people who have not trained as artists or worked within the conventional structures of art production

Alfred Wallis, ‘St Ives’ c.1928
Alfred Wallis
St Ives c.1928
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Jean Dubuffet, ‘Monsieur Plume with Creases in his Trousers (Portrait of Henri Michaux)’ 1947
Jean Dubuffet
Monsieur Plume with Creases in his Trousers (Portrait of Henri Michaux) 1947
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© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2017
Bryan Pearce, ‘St Ives from the Cemetery’ 1975
Bryan Pearce
St Ives from the Cemetery 1975
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© The Estate of Bryan Pearce. All rights reserved, DACS 2017

The art of children, psychiatric patients and prisoners who create art outwith the conventional structures of art training and art production is often categorised as outsider art. In 1964 the French artist Jean Dubuffet started to collect artworks he considered to be free from societal constraints. This was termed art brut (raw art) – another term for outsider art – and in 1948 he founded the Compagnie de L’Art Brut with André Breton.

The artist Ben Nicholson discovered the naïve painter Alfred Wallis in St Ives in the 1920s. A retired fisherman, Wallis painted pictures of ships and the town harbour on pieces of driftwood and cardboard.