Outsiders: An Art Without Precedent or Tradition

Hayward Gallery

Hayward Gallery, 8 February – 8 April 1979

An Exhibition of Outsider Art
In May 1977 the poet and filmmaker Victor Musgrove approached the Arts Council with the suggestion of mounting an exhibition of outsider art, or ‘what Dubuffet calls Art Brut’. Musgrove, who had recently helped artist Jean Dubuffet establish his museum dedicated to Art Brut in Lausanne, France, proposed ‘a large documented exhibition, including photographs and large objects, as well as paintings and drawings.’ 

The result – two years later – was an exhibition of over 400 works by 42 artists from France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, England and the USA. The exhibition was selected by Musgrove and Roger Cardinal, a professor at the University of Kent, and author of Outsider Art (1972).

An Expanded Definition of Art Brut
Victor Musgrove and Roger Cardinal used Jean Dubuffet's definition of Art Brut as a starting point for their selection, but broadened and enlarged Dubuffet’s strict criteria. The press release for the exhibition stated that: ‘Outsider art is not a movement but in each case a highly personal creation of individuals of prodigious talent whose work and even existence is usually unknown to each other, and for the most part little known even to the “official” art world.’ For Cardinal and Musgrove, outsider artists were also defined by what they were not: ‘They are not naives or Sunday Painters … Nor do they produce “psychiatric” art via the intermediaryship of art as therapist.’
Artists and Artworks
The exhibition featured drawings, paintings, sculpted wood, stuffed sculpture, mobile objects and large-scale architectural structures. Musgrove described the work in the exhibition as, by turns, ‘lyrical, powerful, delicate’ and ‘violent’. Among the works in the lower galleries – which had been painted black, orange and purple for the exhibition – were Chicago-based artist Henry Darger’s large-scale drawings of a fantasy war between child-slaves and adults, led by seven teenage sisters. 

The 42 artists in Outsiders: Art without Precedent or Tradition were:

Aloïse, Denise A. Aubertin, Alain Bourbonnais, Karl Brendel, Guy Buigues, Mario Chichorro, Henry Darger, Gaston Duf, Ferdinand Cheval, Reinaldo Eckenberger, Franz Galdeck, Madge Gill, Johann Hauser, August Klötz, Johann Knüpfer, Augustine Lesage, Francis Marshall, Max, Françoise Moncharte, Peter Moog, Heinrich Anton Mülle, Michel Nedjar, Joël Negri, August Netel, Jano Pesset, Martin Ramirez, Emile Ratier, Simon Rodia, Johann Scheibock, Clarence Schmidt, Philipp Schöpke, Friedriech Schröder-Sonnenstern, Joseph Sell, Louis Soutter, Oswald Tschirtner, Pascal Verbena, Oskar Voll, Le Voyageur Français, August Walla, Scottie Wilson, Joseph E. Yoakum and Anna Zemánková.

Outsiders: An Art Without Precedent or Tradition was attended by 38,640 visitors. The artworks in Outsiders became the start of Victor Musgrove and Monika Kinley's collection of outsider art, which was gifted to the Whitworth Art Gallery in 2011.

Press cutting for Outsiders: An Art Without Precedent or Tradition.

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