The Autodidacts: from Van Gogh to Pirosmani

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, while “les refusés” were organizing away from the Salon, there was rising interest in artists considered self-taught, those learning outside the academies and without masters. But the art of autodidacts, also called the “art of the insane”, “art brut”, “primitive” or “naive” art, defies categories and definitions as much as it arouses debate. What modernist preoccupations, from childlike wonder to the primitive, does it echo?

Focusing in particular on two 19th-century autodidacts, Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890) and Niko Pirosmani (1862–1918), and exploring the issues this notion raises today, at this symposium art historians, critics, curators, writers, artists and teachers offered their analysis of self-education from multiple perspectives. The complex figure of the autodidact can enlighten us on our value systems, our approaches to teaching and how recognition is given in a world where different conceptions of culture coexist.

This symposium, organized in September 2019, was the third in a series of conferences conceived by the Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles. The first, “Van Gogh—Duchamp: Oil & Water?”, was held in January 2015 and the second, “Van Gogh Pre-Pop”, in March 2017.

With texts by:
Ciprian Adrian Barsan
Mehdi Belhaj Kacem
Mathis Collins
Bice Curiger
Philippe Dagen
Diedrich Diederichsen
Susanne Von Falkenhausen
Giorgi Khoshtaria
Charlotte Laubard
Wato Tsereteli
Natsuko Uchino
Raphaela Vogel
Gilda Williams

French and English versions
Technical details: 15 × 22 cm, 152 pages, visible sewn binding, images in colour
Graphic design: Judith Spinatsch
Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles
Published in January 2021
ISBN: 979-10-94966-25-9
Price: €30