The American Folk Art Museum mourns the passing of Roger Cardinal (1940–2019). He will forever be associated with the expression “Outsider art,” which he used as an English equivalent to the French concept “art brut” in his seminal 1972 book Outsider Art. He coined the expression to describe the works by persons operating with no consideration for artistic rules or conventions, as taught in schools and academies.
Professor emeritus of literary and visual studies at the University of Kent at Canterbury, England, Cardinal was a leading authority on surrealism, but also a primary figure and a respected international contributor in the field of self-taught art, inspiring legions of new scholars and key players in the art world. He authored major essays on outsider architecture, collecting history, and European modern poetry; was a contributing editor of Raw Vision; served on the advisory board of the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne; and curated seminal exhibitions, notably Outsiders (1979) at the Hayward Gallery in London. During the last years, he relentlessly pursued his in-depth study on artist Madge Gill. His brilliant observations, critical thinking, and curious mind will be dearly missed.