Self Taught & Outsider Art

The Anthony Petullo Collection of Self-Taught and Outsider Art is one of the premier collections of its kind in the country. Comprised of nearly five hundred pieces, two-thirds of which are European, the collection consists of works ranging from the early twentieth-century to the present, and includes many of the most renowned American artists in the field such as Bill Traylor, Henry Darger, and Minnie Evans. The distinguishing characteristic of the collection, however, is the strong emphasis on the work of European outsider artists including Adolf Wolfli, Alfred Wallis, Scottie Wilson, and artists from the Gugging psychiatric hospital near Vienna. Nearly every one is represented by multiple pieces, illustrating the depth of the Petullo Collection.

The Petullo Collection reflects the driving passion of both the creators and the collector. Self-taught artists are involved with the world and its influences, but often have little or no professional training in technique or art historical traditions. Unlike outsiders, however, they are grounded in reality and interactions with others. The label "outsider," as used in the genre, refers to artists who are apart from mainstream society, often isolated by physical or psychological circumstances. Their creations are spontaneous and unstudied.

Gary Porter

Anthony Petullo's gift will expand Milwaukee Art Museum's already healthy collection

By Mary Louise Schumacher of the Journal Sentinel

Sept. 29, 2010

As an art collector, Anthony Petullo compares himself to the artists he loves. For more than 20 years, he has honed a deeply personal vision and hunted down art objects with a relentless fervor.

His collection is one of the most significant - if idiosyncratic - troves of self-taught and outsider art in private hands. Now Petullo is giving the bulk of his collection to the Milwaukee Art Museum, more than 300 drawings, paintings and sculptures. Many were created by artists who lived in secluded places, suffered traumas or were psychiatric patients.

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Over the past twenty years Anthony Petullo has assembled an outstanding collection of works by artists who are often described as “self-taught,” “naive,” or “outsiders.” In Art Without Category, he calls those labels into question, exploring the lives and work of ten extraordinarily gifted artists from Great Britain and Ireland who operated outside the artistic mainstream, determinedly and sometimes obsessively pursuing their singular visions. All received some degree of recognition during their lifetimes, yet they are, as Petullo writes, “orphans without an art family,” creating works that do not fit into the conventional narrative of twentieth-century art. This abundantly illustrated volume, which includes an introductory essay as well as a biography of each artist, demonstrates that they are nevertheless an essential part of the story.

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Outsider Art Sourcebook

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