7 unique and unusual examples of outsider art

The term outsider art was originally coined by art critic Roger Cardinal back in 1972 - taken from Art Brut, a label created by French artist Jean Dubuffet to describe art created outside of official culture, in particular, work created by those in psychiatric hospitals.

Similarly today, outsider art describes the work of self-taught artists, who have little awareness of art history and no contact with the mainstream art world. These are people who make art for themselves, often without recognising themselves as artists. Here we present the unqiue work of seven such creatives...

01. Henry Darger

Outsider art: Henry Darger

One of hundreds of illustrations Henry Darger created to illustrate his epic narrative

Known as one of the most significant self-taught artists of the 20th century, this is one of Henry Darger's beautiful but strange panoramic paintings, created to illustrate his epic 15,145-page written narrative The Story of the Vivian Girls - a tale about a world torn apart by war. Darger created over 300 watercolour and collage paintings to tell his story, his work now being one one of the most celebrated examples outsider art.

02. George Widener

Outsider art: George Widener

Megalopolis 123 was created by self-taught artist George Widener in 2005

The artwork of George Widener is a direct result of his extroadinary mathematical capabilites. The self-taught artist uses his calculating skills to find patterns in dates and then creates artwork from his findings. This particular piece was developed following Widener's interest in architecture and time. Not always being able to afford paper, Widener created parts of this artwork on napkins and stuck them together to make the whole canvas.

03. Howard Finster

Outsider art: Howard Finster

This Black Cat piece by Howard Finster features multiple quotes from the self-taught artist

The motivation behind Howard Finster's artwork was to spread his visions, which he believed came directly from God. During his lifetime, Finster created over 40,000 pieces, his early artwork created soley in paint before adding magic markers into the mix later on. There's many to choose from, but this Black Cat of Desert Storm is one of our favourite of his pieces.

04. Gerard Cambon

Outsider art: Gerard Cambon

Created by self-taught artist Gerard Cambon, this unusual piece was exhibited at this year's Outsider Art Fair in New York

Self taught artist Gerard Cambon lives and works in Paris, creating constructions composed primarily of found materials, including wood, leather and old iron. His work is both light and dark, representing joy and freedom, with others expressing feelings of confinement and detention. This piece, titled Manege Aux Citrons was exhibited at the Outsider Art Fair in January this year.

05. Marc Boulier

Outsider art: Marc Boulier

Marc Boulier's driftwood pieces feature families of little beings, each asserting its own expression

Born in Saigon in Vietnam, artist Marc Boulier spent his younger years travelling through Africa, South America and Asia. This early life experience saw Boulier develop an eye and appreciation for colours and textures of the natural world.

Beginning with paints, then a decade of working exclusively with corrugated cardboard, the talented artist has since moved onto developing his artwork with driftwood. The human element at the heart of his approach, his little beings each asserts its own expression, including tenderness, humor, sadness and complacency.

06. Chris Mars

Outsider art: Chris Mars

Empathy towards the outcast continues to serve as a basis for Chris Mars' work

The youngest of seven children, when Chris Mars was five, his eldest brother Joe was institutionalized at a state mental hospital, diagnosed with Schizophrenia. Since then, self-taught artist Mars has created a significant and impressive body of work that reflects a family affected by mental illness. The former drummer of '80s band The Replacements, private collectors of Mars' work include musicians Tom Petty, Michael Stipe and Dan Murphy.

07. Morton Bartlett

Outsider art: Morton Bartlett

Morton Bartlett photographed his dolls in various scenarios, including reading, at a ballet class, scolding a toy dog and smiling sweetly

Photographer and graphic designer Morton Bartlett devoted almost 30 years of his life to his dollmaking hobby. No training in sculpture, Bartlett used books on anatomy as reference to create at least 15 dolls out of clay and plaster. He then dressed and posed each before taking photos of them in staged scenarios.

His work first became public in 1963, but the attention and praise surprised Bartlett, leading him to pack his work away and remain unseen for the next 30 years. Made public again after being discovered in 1993, Bartlett's work has received wide acclaim, with his work featured in major museums and private collections.

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