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.