American Self-Taught Art: An Illustrated Analysis of 20th Century Artists and Trends with 1,319 Capsule Biographies

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This culminating analysis by two of the greatest experts of the outsider art world begins by explaining what self-taught art is. Then comparative studies are presented of trends in self-taught art, divided by gender, race and region, and examining such issues as education, employment, and personal circumstances. The 1,319 capsule biographies give dates, location, origins, education, employment, style, media, themes and unusual characteristics. Examples of artwork in 44 categories (such as collage, painting, wood carving, metal sculpture); styles (e.g., abstract, rudimentary, surrealistic); and themes (examples: animals, death, humor, politics, religion, vehicles, words) are provided. A lengthy discussion and integration of findings follows.
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Editorial Reviews

the Laffals have done a wonderful job covering this new and exciting field of art...a must have
Library Journal
Valuable... A comprehensive history of self-taught art's growth into a widely studied and collected genre is written in a clear and friendly style...recommended
recommended. All levels
Folk Art Messenger
brilliant...a must...writing is accessible, clear and well-crafted...many commonly held assumptions and myths abouth self-taught artists are dispelled...most important
Library Journal
The late couple Florence (former editor & publisher, Folk Art Finder newsletter) and Julius Laffal (former assoc. clinical professor, psychiatry, Yale Univ. ) used the term "self-taught art" rather than the more common "folk art" to emphasize that it's a living form, and one not tied to specific locations, cultures, or economic conditions. Here, "self-taught art" refers to work produced by artists who have neither received formal training nor studied techniques and styles on their own, instead learning mostly by experimentation. The book contains 45 color plates and numerous black-and-white illustrations, which help to clarify the subject matter. Although the subtitle promises "an illustrated analysis" of the field, the formal analysis is limited to a single chapter presenting statistics on the background, race, gender, and circumstances of self-taught artists, along with the authors' conclusions. As many of these statistics were collected by the Laffals personally, their uniqueness makes the chapter valuable; however, it's in the other chapters that the Laffals' knowledge and enthusiasm are most obvious. A comprehensive history of self-taught art's growth into a widely studied and collected genre is written in a clear and friendly style, as are both the 116 pages of capsule biographies and the more extensive descriptions of representative artists in subgenres and media. VERDICT The statistics will be extremely useful for college-level study and above, despite a stilted tone that's at odds with the other chapters, where clear writing and an easy tone make the book approachable for open-minded audiences. Any readers unconvinced of self-taught art's validity as a form won't be convinced by this book; for others it's recommended.—Robert Mixner, Bartholomew Cty. P.L., Columbus, IN
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786416691
  • Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/10/2003
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 10.00 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Artist and art educator Florence Laffal (M.A., Columbia University) was editor and publisher of Folk Art Finder for twenty years. Psychologist Julius Laffal was an associate professor at Yale University. They were both recipients of the Folk Art Society of America award of distinction.

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Table of Contents

Foreword 1
Introduction 5
1 The Emergence of American Folk Art in the Twentieth Century 9
2 Comparative Studies of Self-Taught Art 20
3 Capsule Biographies of Artists 38
4 Selected Examples: Media, Style, Subjects and Themes 155
5 Discussion and Integration of Findings 264
App Chronology of Events 291
Bibliography 301
Index 309
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