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Ella Flavell

Thesis: Living Roots: Art Brut Within and Without the Western Art World, 1930-1988

Supervisors: Dr Naomi Vogt



BA in History of Art (University of York, 2018)

MA in History of Art (University of York, 2019)

My current PhD project is funded by Midlands 4 Cities (AHRC)



​Art Brut, produced by psychiatric patients, 'isolated' individuals, and the self taught, has long found itself excluded from the art historical canon upon which it had such a profound impact. Offering a visual language seemingly untainted by 'cultural conditioning,' Art Brut played a key role in the development of Avant Gardes on both sides of the Atlantic. Framed by the collections of Jean Dubuffet, André Breton, and Alain Bourbonnais, my project asks how an idea of Art Brut was constructed, adopted, and exploited within modernist circles. It questions and challenges the ways in which Art Brut has been historicised, asking how the canonical, Western narrative of modern art changes when these practices are reassessed. In doing so my project aims to demonstrate that rather than an anonymous adjunct to such narratives, Art Brut occupied a pivotal and essential position within them.

Research Interests:

  • Art Brut
  • Outsider Art Environments​
  • Surrealism
  • Religious art of the 20th Century​
  • Folk Art and practices


​Flavell, Ella, “'The Distance from Dream to Reality': Ferdinand Cheval in the Surrealist Imagination, 1924-1945,” Aspectus, no. 3 (Fall 2021), pp. 1-20.