If you are an art enthusiast or art collector you may have come
across the term outsider art. Outsider art has become a bit trendy and
collectible in the recent years. When one mentions the term, outsider art,
context of the term is required in order to define its true meaning. In
addition, in order to understand outsider art's true meaning, it is important
to explore the history of where the term outsider art came from. In this
article we will explore the history of outsider artwork, the definition as it
applies to style of art, and the definition as it applies to artwork that is
created by outsider artists.
Who invented outsider art?
Words are invented by people. First came the term "Art Brut", coined by the French Artist, Jean Dubuffet. Dubuffet had a fascination for artwork of artists who have been isolated from society; thereby creating without the constraints of society and cultural influence. Dubuffet began collecting artwork that fit this category of untrained or uninfluenced artists. Dubuffet mainly focused on collecting the artwork of people who were institutionalized due to mental illness.
Later, the term outsider art was coined. This term while borrowing from the meaning of Art Brut, was more focused on the aspect that the art was created from the heart and not based on any formal training. It's pure creativity from the spirit if you will. The term outsider art was invented by an art critic who was also a folk art historian. His name: Roger Cardinal. Roger, also a published author wrote books about art and artists, including a book about Grandma Moses who was outsider art icon. The term outsider art was coined when he wrote the book "Outsider Art" in 1972. Having a passion for folk art, and art in general, Roger wrote about the type of art created by individuals who created simply for the pleasure of creating art in his book. This type of art is outsider art.
Sometimes when one mentions outsider art, they are speaking about the style of art. Sometimes when a person describes artwork the term outsider art is used because it is reminiscent of the term art brut. Sometimes artists emulate the styles of the famous artist who have preceded them. When an artist emulates another artist's style, for instance the style of Hans Prinzhorn (1886-1933) one might call this artwork "outsider". One may also call certain folk art outsider, as folk art is described by art by people who have no formal training other than the techniques passed down from generation to generation.
This article was written in the spirit of all artists who create art simply for the sake of creating. This type of art escapes many boundaries including the mental health of the artists, the financial status of the artists (whether rich or poor), and the education of the artist. While it can be said that any artist who creates from their soul is outsider by definition, it is clear that some artists are more outsider than others.
Sources: Wikipedia; Roger Cardinal, "Outsider Art"