Lausanne’s Collection de l’Art Brut: Where Primitive Art flourishes

"Naïve Art" is now a fully recognized artistic medium and is represented in art galleries throughout the world, but particularly in Lausanne, Switzerland.

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A face made entirely of seashells at Art Brut in Lausanne. (Via Wikipedia.org)

LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND,  August 12, 2017 — Some people call it “Naïve Art” which is partially accurate in its own way. Yet the term is not nearly as specific as “Outsider Art” or “Primitive Art.” In case you are not aware of this particular artistic genre, it is defined as “any form of visual art created by a person who lacks the formal education and training that a professional artist undergoes (in anatomy, art history, technique, ways of seeing).”

Art Brut exterior in Lausanne, Switzerland (Lausanne.Tourism.ch)

Perhaps the best known artist to most of us in America who belongs in this artistic class is Grandma Moses. But there are others, such as Henri Rousseau and Alfred Wallis, who have had even greater impact on the genre. In fact, “Naïve Art” is now a fully recognized artistic medium and is represented in art galleries throughout the world.

The more you study “Naive Art,” the more you like it for its purity. (LausanneTourism.ch)

One of the first to recognize the “purity” of Outsider Art was Jean Dubuffet, who opened the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1976. While Outsider Art is today regarded as a legitimate art form, Art Brut remains one of the few museums in the world that is totally dedicated to the medium.

Some patrons might view the museum’s exhibitions as dark or moody because the works have been created by people who are “criminally insane, delusional or secluded and marginalized.” This is NOT what Dubuffet had in mind when he opened his gallery, however.


Rather, his purpose was to endorse art collections by people who had otherwise been sheltered from outside influences, which allowed them the freedom to create art stemming from their purest instincts. Hence the name “Naïve Art.”

The Collection de l’Art Brut requires a willingness to accept its concept (wikipedia.org)

Visitors who make their way through the four-story Art Brut Collection, comprised of both permanent and traveling exhibitions, get a far greater understanding of the positive motivations of the artists if they enter with an open mind.

In some ways, the art here reminds us of the mathematical savant Raymond Babbit, so masterfully portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in the 1998 film “Rainman,” the only difference being that many of these “outside” artists use the creative segment of their brains rather than that portion used for calculations.

Henri Rousseau was one of the best known and most prolific of outside artists. (Via Wikipedia.org)

Typically the art under discussion is colorful, displaying an almost childlike quality. But there is also something wholesome and unique in each work of art that beckons viewers to draw closer, often in ways that their more famous professional counterparts cannot accomplish.

Rousseau’s “Repast of the Lion.” (Via Wikipedia.org)

There is almost a uniquely elementary school perspective to this art. Collections specializing in the genre are eccentric and diverse, with paintings incorporating objects frequently readily available in a particular artist’s personal environment. Examples include crushed flowers, toothpaste or sea shells.

In fact, there are some who would say the “untrained” artists are better at their craft than many of the highly-paid, well-recognized painters and sculptors who works frequently leave art patrons befuddled at what such artists are attempting to achieve.

It is this aspect of Collection de l’Art Brut that makes it so special. Herein is art created purely due to the primal need of the artists to express themselves.

“Naive” or “primitive” artists tend to use whatever materials are readily available. (LausanneTourism.ch)

The collections in Art Brut, which literally translates to “Collection of Outsider Art,” are arranged in groupings by each artist with a brief biography that details their particular talents for the viewer.

Art Brut is fascinating because there are no limitations on creativity. (LausanneTourism.ch)

If patrons are apprehensive at first viewing, they usually are intrigued the further they delve into the variety and diversity of the artistic skills on display. This is a museum that builds upon itself and grows with the people who dare to explore the emotions of the creations.

As one critic put it, Art Brut is a place “where the art is almost screaming at you.” It’s an undeniable statement for sure, but one which, in the end, contains a powerful message that is both positive and emotional.

In its own way, Collection de l’Brut often touches us in a more personal way than traditional art is able to accomplish.

“Waterfall” is not at Art Brut, but is an example of outsider art. (commonswikimedia.org)

“Primitive Art”, which also a better description of the genre than “Naïve Art,” is the term frequently applied to the medium by academics who view these creations as being similar to “tribal” contributions such as wall paintings or primitive carvings.

Most experts agree that Naïve Art was more or less “discovered” around 1885 when artist Paul Signac noticed the prolific contributions of Henri Rousseau. Signac was intrigued enough to begin arranging exhibitions of Rousseau’s work at several prestigious galleries. Clearly, he was onto something before others began to share his vision.

Today, whether you call such art “Naïve” or “Primitive” or “Outsider” or just plain “Folk Art,” this exciting, expressive genre is something each of us can relate to in our own individual way.

At Art Brut, everywhere you turn is a surprise and a discovery (wikipedia.org)

The Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland is a good place to begin your journey. In fact, it may even become an inspiration for your own “naïvete.”

About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.

He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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