Self Taught & Outsider Art Overview

Throughout history there have been artists who created without the benefit of formal training. However, for many centuries, the dominance of the European art academies obscured the work of these self-taught artists, who were judged to be inept and inferior. Only at the dawn of the 20th century, when artists began to rebel against the academies, did self-taught art suddenly receive serious attention from the mainstream art-world. Artists like Picasso and Kandinsky felt that trained artists were inevitably corrupted by their schooling, and that self-taught artists were purer and potentially greater.

After World War II, in an attempt to repudiate a “civilization” that had spawned the Holocaust, the artist Jean Dubuffet invented the ideal of Art Brut (“raw art”)–an art untainted by any trace of received culture. This concept, translated as “Outsider Art” by Roger Cardinal in the first English-language book on the subject, gradually took root in the United States. Here, the term “Outsider Art” is often used interchangeably with “self-taught” to denote any art produced outside of academia.