Augustin Lesage was born in 1876 in Brittany to a family of miners. At the age of fourteen he went to work in the mines, where, in 1911, “(he) heard a voice that said clearly, ‘one day you will be a painter.’”
Afraid of being considered mentally unstable, he kept this revelation to himself and began to explore spiritualism. During one seance, a message conveyed by spirits confirmed his artistic calling. Under their instruction, he made nonrepresentational drawings of spiral shapes in colored pencil.
The spirits would soon tell Lesage to set his pencils aside and to work with oil paint instead. The miner followed their orders. His first canvas -very large, at 3m² _ revealed a new style, dominated by geometric composition. Lesage would work on one level at a time, painting line after line on the canvas, applying touches of the same color only once, vertical space by vertical space. His reputation grew, and Lesage moved his wife and children to Paris, where he worked full time as a painter.
Journalists, doctors, artists, and ethnologists all rushed to see the psychic at work. Lesage, who had been to a museum only once in his life, in 1899, became the official painter of the spiritualist movement. He was an object of fascination for André Breton, the surrealists, and later Dubuffet.
Today he is considered a classic of art brut. His work is found in the most important art collections, including the Musée National d’Art Moderne (Paris). He never stopped saying, “This is art from the beyond; it doesn’t come from me.”
Preface : Bruno Decharme
Foreword : Christian Berst
Catalog published to mark the exhibition Art brut, masterpieces and discoveries : carte blanche à Bruno Decharme, from october 21st to november 29th, 2014.