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For the first time, Museum Folkwang displays works by self-taught, non-academic artists
Henri Rousseau, Le Lion, ayant faim, s e jette sur l'antilope, 1905. Oil on Canvas © Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Photo: Robert Bayer.

ESSEN.- Works by self-taught, non-academic artists are usually referred to as “naïve” or “outsider art” and are conventionally viewed as a distinct category, separate from modern art. But in terms of their power and intensity, these works often rival the great modernist masterpieces. In this major exhibition The Shadow of the Avant Garde. Rousseau and the Forgotten Masters (2. October 2015 – 10. January 2016) the Museum Folkwang presents for the first time the works of such artists as Henri Rousseau, André Bauchant, Séraphine Louis, Martín Ramírez, and Bill Traylor alongside seminal works of modern and contemporary art by Honoré Daumier, Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, and, more recently, Blinky Palermo and Mike Kelley.

The exhibition displays principal works by 13 artists, most of whom had no academic training and are not found in the canon of art history today. The spectrum ranges from painting and drawing to sculpture and photography, and includes artists of diverse origins. Each of the artists’ works is on view in a separate space providing for an impactful, concentrated viewing experience.

The painter Henri Rousseau holds a key position in this context as the prototype of the modern selftaught artist, striking a balance between non-academic art and art-historical canonisation. Beginning with his enthusiastic reception by the Parisian avant-garde after 1900, he is the one artist displayed in the exhibition whose critical reception never waned. His paintings have always been sought after, by academics and curators alike.

Considered outsiders or creators of naive art, untrained artists tend to be excluded from discussions of modern art. In contrast, this exhibition casts their methods, their self-conception, and their reception as a genuinely modern phenomenon. While these artists did not necessarily adopt an avantgarde or modern approach to their art, they called a number of aesthetic conventions into question through their independently developed, unschooled artistic techniques and through the frequently radical images they generated. The anti-academic trend of the modern period created the space for self-taught artists to develop an artistic consciousness beyond the framework of existing institutions; the re-evaluation of aesthetics, in turn, facilitated appreciation of their works. Established artists of the avant-garde were often the first to draw attention to self-taught artists and to popularize their art. In order to reveal these connections, thirteen mini-retrospectives are exhibited alongside individual key works of modern and contemporary art. Viewed together in this juxtaposition, these self-taught artists’ unusual pictures and sculptures become legible as constant companions of the avant-garde that enrich and deepen our understanding of modern art.

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