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Aloïse Corbaz

Swiss, 20th century.
Born 1886, Lausanne; died 1964, Gimel-sur-Morges, Switzerland


Women of power and romance are the center of Aloïse Corbaz’s visual universe. Depictions of women–imperious, luxurious, sensuous, and sexual–dominate the world she depicts, define the visual field of her drawings, and command the attention of the viewer. Her art celebrates feminine power coursing across history and throughout Western cultural imagination. The mood is at once intensely romantic and explicitly theatrical; the figures drawn alternately from opera, theater, and historical romances–fictive, factual, or ecstatically projected by Corbaz’s impassioned and overwrought imagination.

Born into a middle class family, Aloïse Corbaz received a traditional education, including drawing and singing lessons that spurred her fervent desire to become an opera singer. After working as a governess in the entourage of Kaiser Wilhelm II, for whom she developed an intense–and imaginary–attachment, she returned to Lausanne at the start of WWI and soon exhibited signs of mental collapse. She was diagnosed in 1918 as schizophrenic and placed for the remainder of her life in the asylum La Rosière in Gimel, where she began making art and eventually became known simply as Aloïse. Fortunately, her art was recognized by Dr. Hans Steck and preserved by Steck’s student Jacqueline Porret-Forel. Madame Porret-Forel introduced Jean Dubuffet to the artist and her work, which he saw as exemplary of art brut. Although Corbaz said little to Dubuffet, he speculated that she was not mad; rather, she found a space within her “madness” to establish a selfhood where she could create her remarkable visual universe independent of the cultural world.

Aloïse drew primarily with crayon and pencil, though she would infuse works with stains from crushed floral petals or occasionally mix in toothpaste. She worked largely on found paper, preferring salvaged wrapping paper, as well as cardboard. In her work images of women and their admirers or hopeful lovers proliferate, often with multiple scenes of passion within each single work. But frequently, single drawings could not contain her intimate passion and epic vision. Thus, Aloïse would employ both sides of the paper, collage found images from magazines, and stitch together multiple pages into works, some stretching several meters wide or high, within which scenes succeeded scenes to suggest extensive operatic narratives that created an amorous realm at once hyperbolic and histrionic.

- Charles Russell


Selected Exhibitions

2012, Aloïse. Le ricochet solaire, Collection de l’Art Brut & Musée Cantonnal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne

2010, The Museum of Everything, Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Turin

2009, Aloïse “comme un papillon sur elle,” Borderless Art Museum NO-MA, Shiga (Japan)

2005, Dubuffet & Art Brut, traveling exhibition, Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf; Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne; Musée d'art moderne Lille Métropole, Villeneuve d'Ascq

1993, Aloyse, Museum im Lagerhaus, Saint-Gall (Switzerland)

1972, Aloïse, Atelier Jacob, Paris

Selected Collections

American Folk Art Museum, New York
Collection abcd, Montreuil
Collection d l’Art Brut, Lausanne
Lille Métropole Musée d'art moderne, d'art contemporain et d'art brut, Villeneuve d'Asq

Selected Bibliography

Russell, Charles, Groundwaters; A Century of Art by Self-Taught and Outsider Artists, Prestel, New York, 2011.

The Museum of Everything, exhibition catalogue, Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Turin/Milan, 2010.

Dubuffet & Art Brut
, exhibition catalogue, 5 Continents & Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf, 2005.

Porret-Forel, Jacqueline, Aloïse et le théâtre de l’univers, Skira, Geneva, 1993.

Cardinal, Roger, Outsider Art, Praeger, New York, 1972.

L’Art brut, fasicule No. 7, Lausanne, Switzerland, 1966.
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