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Polish, 20th century.
Born 1897, Wozuczyn, Poland; died 1962.

Not much is known about Edmund Monsiel, a classic Outsider Artist from Poland who worked in almost complete isolation to produce an extensive body of approximately 500 pencil drawings marked by repetition, proliferation, and astounding minutiae. There is a phrase often used to describe the Outsider impulse to crowd the picture plane: “horror vacuii” or fear of empty space. While this notion of fearful creation is most often misused, perhaps it is appropriate in the case of Monsiel.

After the German army forcibly occupied Monsiel’s modest shop, he fled, taking refuge in the attic of his brother’s house, located in the town of Wozuczyn. Fearing imminent arrest by the Nazis, Monsiel remained hidden there until his death from influenza in 1962. During his self-imposed imprisonment, he began to produce drawings in which the same mustachioed face repeatedly appears, connected in a continuous web with no beginning and no end.

Monsiel’s signature face—alternatively thought to be his own or that of Christ—varies in size from large to minute. He drew other faces and figures appearing with vestments and other symbols of religious and royal status. Written text appearing on these drawings is religious in nature.

It is not clear whether these drawings expressed fear, witnessed a protective faith, or both. Perhaps we will never know. In his singular dedication to continuous artistic production, his consistent formal inventiveness, and his impulse to meet adversity with creativity, Monsiel is a quintessential Outsider. 

- Jenifer P. Borum


Selected Exhibitions
2013, RAW VISION: 25 ans d'Art Brut, Halle Saint-Pierre, Paris
2013, Portraits: On Being Slow Above All Else..., Collection abcd, Paris
2010, The Museum of Everything, Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Turin
1996, Edmund Monsiel, Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne

Selected Collections
Collection abcd, Montreuil
Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne
Museum of Everything, London

Selected Bibliography
Peiry, Lucienne, and Sarah Lombardi, Collection de l'Art Brut, Collection de l'Art Brut & Skira-Flammarion, Paris, 2012.
The Museum of Everything, exhibition catalogue, Electa & Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Turin, 2010.
Chlewinski, Zbigniev, Edmund Monsiel: odslona druga. Plocka Galeria Sztuki, Plock, 1997.
Thévoz, Michel, Art brut, psychose et médiumnité, La Différence, Paris, 1990.
L'Art Brut, Fascicule 11, Compagnie de l'Art Brut, Paris, 1982.

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