In Vasari’s time it was still remembered that the great Masaccio (1401–28) ‘…was a very absent-minded and careless person; having fixed his mind and will wholly on matters of art, he cared little about himself and still less about others. And since he would never, under any circumstance, give a thought to the cares and concerns of the world, nor even to his clothes, and was not in the habit of recovering his money from his debtors, except when he was in greatest need, Tommaso was called Masaccio (Silly Tom) by everybody.’ (Vasari, II, 289). The corollary to obsession with one’s work is indifference to dress, cleanliness, food, family, public affairs; in short, to everything outside the object of the fixation. […] Of Paolo Uccello (1397–1475), pupil of Ghiberti and friend of Donatello, a great experimenter, apart from being a great painter, the story went that ‘…because of these investigations he remained secluded in his house, almost like a hermit, for weeks and months, without knowing much of what went on in the world and without showing himself. Spending his time on those caprices, he knew, while he was alive, more poverty than fame. He left a wife who used to relate that Paolo would spend the whole night at his drawing board trying to find the rules of perspective, and when she called him to come to bed, he would answer: “Oh, how sweet in this perspective!”’ (Vasari, II, 204–5)

Margot and Rudolf Wittkower, Born Under Saturn, New York: New York Review Books, 2007.



Those works created from solitude and from pure and authentic creative impulses – where the worries of competition, acclaim and social promotion do not interfere – are, because of these very facts, more precious than the productions of professionals. After a certain familiarity with these flourishings of an exalted feverishness, lived so fully and so intensely by their authors, we cannot avoid the feeling that in relation to these works, cultural art in its entirety appears to be the game of a futile society, a fallacious parade.

Jean Dubuffet, ‘Make Way for Incivism’, in Art and Text, no. 27, December 1987 – February 1988.


Scorned and rejected half a century ago, marginal creation has gradually made its way onto the social and cultural scene through the efforts of its advocates in museums, publishing, and business. This recognition marked a debut of a double life for Art Brut. Lifted out of the obscurity and anonymity to which they had been consigned, these creations began to be considered as full-fledged works of art. At the same time, this official acknowledgement altered and misrepresented them, since it partially distorted its initially rebellious and uncultured virtues.

Lucienne Peiry, Art Brut: The Origins of Outsider Art, Paris: Flammarion, 2001.