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Self Taught Artist

Jean-Michel Basquiat
Untitled, 1981
Oilstick on paper
101.6 x 152.4 cm (40 x 60 in.)
© 2023 Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York.
Museum of Modern Art, New York

Not all artists receive formal training in art. That can be due to a variety of factors, such as lack of access based on race, class, gender, cultural norms, and physical, mental and developmental disabilities. Self-taught artists, sometimes referred to as outsider artists or naïve artists, are individuals who create art without formal education from art institutions or traditional art schools. Many of these artists have developed successful art practices, including famous names like Henri Rousseau, Frida Kahlo, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. These self taught artists developed their artistic skills and style through their own intuition and imagination, sharing unique artistic visions with the world. The absence of institutional training leads self-taught artists to develop their own distinctive styles and methods, often working with unconventional materials such as found or discarded objects.

Sophie Calle
Father Mother (The Graves, #17), 1991
Two gelatin silver prints
Diptych, each 181 x 111.1 cm (71.3 x 43.7 in.)
© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Other famous names of self taught artists include Bill Traylor, James Castle, Purvis Young, and Judith Scott. Their unique perspectives and unconventional approaches have inspired and influenced many contemporary artists, making a significant contribution to the evolution of modern art. Sophie Calle, a conceptual artist, writer, installation artist, and movie director, didn’t attend art school and sometimes distances herself from the title of an artist. Renowned for her distinct visual narratives, Calle employs photography, installation, and video, often combining with text, to intertwine personal experiences to tell stories.

Related categories



Film/Video Art

Conceptual Art

Narrative Art

Reality and Fantasy / Illusion / Imagination

Daily Life Experience

Word as Image

Found Objects

Surrounding Environment

African American Art

Digital Print

Using Unusual Tools and Materials

Gender Issues

Race Issues

Different Perspectives

Personal/Social Identity

Modern Art