Outsider Art – Is It Really Art? – part 2

Continuation of part 1 of the article:

Naive and Primitive Artists

Dubuffet was working with the mentally ill artists, while “Outsider Art” outside of France was known to be a much more general term. It included not just the psychotic art, but also naive, self-taught, and primitive art as well. On the American scene in the early to mid twentieth century we had Grandma Moses, the renowned folk artist painting such countryside favorites as “This Old Checkered House in Winter” which was the subject of many paintings, one of which was appraised on “Antiques Roadshow” in 2004 for $60,000. Several of her paintings have appeared on Hallmark holiday cards.

Grandma Moses - Outsider art - eArtfair.com/blog
Sugaring Off, 1955
by Grandma Moses
Buy this Fine Art Print (Art.com)

Earlier we have Horace Pippin, born in my local area in West Chester in 1888, who painted “Giving Thanks” and “Domino Players.” Even earlier in France, there was Henri Rousseau, with his dream-like representations of jungles and jungle animals.

All of these artists could have been considered Naive painters because they were self-taught and their paintings possessed a child-like quality to them. This doesn’t mean all Naive painters had no formal education, but as it relates to Outsider Art it generally does. In modern times there is no stigma attached to this genre of art.

Children’s Art

I talked about how children learn art in my article Learning Art. The way we learn as we grow up and experiment with art starts out with an expression close to ancient societies’ art. For example, in ancient Egyptian wall paintings you will find people in a row side by side with no overlap. Children would express the same type of thing when they draw people in a crowd next to each other in a row instead of showing any signs of overlap. The way they see it, if someone’s arm looks as if it disappears into the back of another person, this makes no visual sense. You wouldn’t really see a person’s arm actually going inside someone else, so why would one draw it that way.

The same is true for people in buildings. When a child draws a person inside a building, they wouldn’t show a face looking out from a window, because this would mean there is simply a floating head in a window sill. If anything their art was more true to reality, than to aesthetics and perspective.

Grandma Moses - Outsider art - eArtfair.com/blog
Beautiful World, 1948
Grandma Moses
Buy this Fine Art Print (Art.com)

One funny recent story which raises the question of the authority of art dealers is a woman selling her son’s scribble paintings as priceless works of modern art. She didn’t tell the dealers her son was 6 or 7 years old and the paintings were more or less doodles. Nonetheless the dealers saw the “genius” of them and bought them top dollar.

If anything is to be learned from children and from child-like naive paintings is that art can be appreciated for art’s sake. It doesn’t have to be perfect and it certainly does not need the approval of avant garde art experts. Art can be found in the small crafts of Christmas Kitsche statues, the scribbles of prisoners and psychiatric patients and even the finger paintings of gorillas. Art should be appreciated for what it is, and what’s its attempting to be.

Whether it’s good art, bad art, crummy art, children’s art, “Outsider Art” is still art.

>By Dan Kretschmer, who keeps a daily blog at www.vincesear.com


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