Raw Vision’s Definitions

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Raw vision’s definitions

The controversy surrounding the exact definition of Outsider Art and allied fields has been going on ever since awareness of the phenomenon began. Whatever views we have about the value of controversy itself, it is important to sustain creative discussion by way of an agreed vocabulary.  


Dubuffet realised that there existed many creators whose work was of comparable power and inventiveness to Art Brut, but their greater contact with normal society and the awareness they had of their art works precluded their inclusion within the strict Art Brut category. These creators were often humble workers who created in their spare time, or eccentric and untrained artists trying to make a living from their work – some of whom had dealings with commercial galleries. As an acknowledgement to them he formed his “Annex Collection”; in 1982 this became the “Neuve Invention” section of the Collection de l’Art Brut.(examples: Gaston Chaissac, Mario Chichorro, Rosemarie Koczy, Gerard Lattier, Albert Louden, Frederich Schroder-Sonnenstern). 



Jean Dubuffet’s original 1945 term for the works that he collected and revered; later adopted by the Collection de l’Art Brut at Lausanne. Art Brut means ‘Raw Art’. Raw because it is ‘uncooked’ or ‘unadulterated’ by culture. Raw because it is creation in its most direct and uninhibited form. Not only were the works unique and original but their creators were seen to exist outside established culture and society. The purest of Art Brut creators would not consider themselves artists, nor would they even feel that they were producing art at all. Art Brut is visual creation at its purest – a spontaneous psychic flow from brain to paper. No works of Art Brut are allowed to be exhibited away from the Collection at Lausanne. Equally, the name ‘Art Brut’ is not permitted to be used except as a description of the works in the Collection. Similarly, the Collection de l’Art Brut insists that it alone can officially designate any newly discovered works as Art Brut.

(Examples: Aloise, Carlo, Henry Darger, Madge Gill, Johann Hauser, Raphael Lonne, Laure Pigeon, Martin Ramirez, Adolf Wolfli). 



The term ‘Outsider Art’ was originally intended to act as an exact English equivalent to Dubuffet’s term, although Outsider Art has developed to encompass not only Art Brut but also works that the Lausanne Collection would not strictly designate as such (eg. some of the works in the Neuve Invention category). Outsider Art has not had the benefit of the unique protection surrounding Art Brut and the definition has undoubtedly become obscured by chronic mis-use since its introduction in 1972. Sadly we find today that many use the term in the loosest way, to refer to almost any untrained artist. It is simply not enough to be untrained, clumsy or naive. Outsider Art is virtually synonymous with Art Brut in both spirit and meaning, to that rarity of art produced by those who do not know its name.

(Examples: Wolfli, Hauser, Chomo, Traylor, Schroder-Sonnenstern, Cheval, Rodia). 



A simple and direct term that has become much used – and over-used – especially in North America. Originally pertaining to the indigenous crafts and decorative skills of peasant communities in Europe, the term was later applied to the simply made practical objects of colonial days – a combination of charm and practical craftmanship. In contemporary terms, Folk Art can cover anything from chain-saw animals to hub-cap buildings. The crossover with Outsider Art is undeniable, but most Folk Art has its own traditions and is often very different from the psychic flow of Art Brut.

(Examples: Thornton Dial, Sam Doyle, William Hawkins, Clyde Jones, Joseph Sleep, Mose Tolliver).  



The works of artists, usually, but not exclusively, self-taught, that are close to Art Brut and Outsider artists, both in appearance and directness of expression. These are the artists ‘on the margins’, that grey area of definition that lies between Outsider Art and normal mainstream art, very similar to Dubuffet’s Neuve Invention category. Art Singulier encompasses French marginal artists.

(Examples: Chomo, Danielle Jacqui, Marcel Landreau, Gerard Lattier, Raymond Reynaud). [Danielle Jacqui photograph by Ann Oppenhimer, The Folk Art Society.]  

Art marginal



Both of these are deliberate umbrella terms, used together they can include almost everything of value in the field, including much tribal art and the urban folk art of the third world, as well as most of the works described above. They are safe and honest general terms that avoid the specifics of Outsider Art or Folk Art.

(Examples: Kox, Coleman).  




Often confused with Outsider and Visionary art, this term refers to untrained artists who depict largely realistic scenes, often in minute detail, with people, animals, and other aspects of the observed world, sometimes combined with fantasy images. They often aspire to normal artistic status and are usually very different from the visionaries to be found in the pages of Raw Vision, and may often be seen as quite sophisticated amateurs verging on professionalism.

(Examples: James Crane, Grandma Moses, Ivan Generalic, Joseph Pickett, Douanier Rousseau, Germain Tessier). 




The environments, buildings and sculpture parks built by intuitive artists almost defy definition. They have become known by various terms, Visionary Environments and Contemporary Folk Art Environments being perhaps the most appropriate in current use. Although Outsider Art has been used to describe the environments, some feel the label to be insulting to these particular creators, many of whom are integrated members of their local communities. Another popular term, especially in the US, is Grassroots Art, which can also cover the more humble expressions and constructions of ordinary folk in both town and country.

(Examples: Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers, SP Dinsmoor’s Garden of Eden, Ferdinand Cheval’s Palais Ideal, Nek Chand’s Rock Garden).   

Visionary enviroment

1 comment for now

One Response to “Raw Vision’s Definitions”

  1. What if these are the true moderns and not primative or niave at all? Just because you don’t have a degree doesn’t make you primative. Who issued these catagories anyway some PHD.

    06 Oct 2010 at 7:21 pm

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