ALOÏSE CORBAZ (1886-1964, SWITZERLAND)
Aloïse Corbaz was a cultured and educated woman who worked ad a private tutor at the German court of Kaiser Wilhelm II, where she taught his pastor’s daughter.
Before that, she had wanted to become a singer. On developing an over-powering infatuation with the Kaiser, her mental state became increasingly agitated and she was returned to Switzerland and admitted to an asylum in Lausanne, and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. The hospital director, Hans Steck, and his successor, Jacqueline Porret-Forel, encouraged Aloïse to draw and write. Initially, she illustrated romantic pieces of writing, but she soon developed her flowing drawing style using coloured pencils. Many of her earlier works, made with graphite and ink, are on folded pieces of paper and in sketch books and centre on a romantic couple or a single feminine figure. Her chosen colours are warm pinks and reds, which contrast sharply with the empty blue wells od the figures’ eyes.
Her later works are less complex in composition but have bolder imagery and stronger range of colours from colored pencils, gouache and greasy chalks. If necessary, she also used crushed flower petals’ juyce and toothpaste.
Aloïse was the author of a personal cosmogony made by historical heroines drowned in blue and red, like Mary Stuart, Queen Elizabeth or Cleopatra. The theme of the amorous couple, associated with his passion for theater and opera, predominates in his work.
Dubuffet claimed that Aloïse was not mad at all: she made us believe it. He was convinced that she had cured herself by ceasing to fight against her illness. She cultivated it, turning her problems into an exciting reason for living.
1) Montreuse de tableau dans la bannière de Montreux, (sketchpad page, detail), 1941, coloured pencil and lead pencil on paper © Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne
2) Mythe Atalante lance des pommes d’or, 1946 colored pencil and lead pencil on paper © Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne
3) Deux profils dessinés dans les montagnes, between 1941 and 1951, coloured pencil © Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne
Outsider Art Sourcebook. International guide to Art Brut and Outsider Art. Third edition 2016, published by Raw Vision Ltd; L’Association “Aloïse Corbaz”