Auguste Marie

1865–1934

A leading clinical psychiatrist, Auguste Marie is best known as a collector and curator. The Museum of Madness that he established at the Villejuif psychiatric hospital in France in the early 1900s and the exhibitions he organized in Parisian art galleries in the late 1920s played a major role in shaping the reception of visual works created by patients in psychiatric institutions (also known as “patient art”), attracting the attention of medical professionals as well as avant-garde artists.

Marie studied clinical psychiatry under neurologist Jean-Marie Charcot. A specialist of mental health conditions, he became head physician at the Villejuif psychiatric hospital around 1900. In 1920 he assumed the positions of director of Sainte-Anne Psychiatric Hospital in Paris and professor in charge of the psychopathology laboratory at the Ecole des hautes études.

Though publicized successively under the names Museum of Madness (1905) and Retrospective Psychiatric Museum (1910), Marie’s collection of visual works, drawn from the medical files of patients at Villejuif, was not presented within an exhibition space. Rather, it was displayed within a few rooms of the hospital and not open to the public. The term “museum” was thus misleading, corresponding to a failed attempt by Marie to garner support for the founding of such an institution, which he primarily envisioned as a science museum dedicated to the history of psychiatry.

Despite its modest exhibition format, what is now known as the Auguste Marie Collection exerted a notable influence on several medical interns who later published monographs dedicated to the visual productions of psychiatric patients. These include Paul Meunier’s L’art chez les fous (1907), published under the pseudonym Marcel Réja, and Jean Vinchon’s L’art et la folie (1924). Both are abundantly illustrated with works from the Marie Collection, for instance those by patients Albert G. and Maurice N. (known, respectively, by the pseudonyms Baron de Ravallet and Xavier Cotton).

The late 1920s marked a turning point in the public reception of the Marie Collection, as Marie looked to major Parisian art galleries to exhibit and sell parts of his holdings. The exhibitions he organized at Galerie Vavin (1927–28) and Galerie Max Bine (1929) were well-publicized events, attended by a number of artists, including Surrealists Paul Eluard and Max Ernst, who both acquired works from the collection. Czech painter and art dealer Ladislas Szési brokered loans from the Marie Collection to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where they were displayed in the exhibition Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism (1936–37). The remaining core of the Marie Collection was integrated into Jean Dubuffet’s Collection de l’Art Brut in 1966 and is now held in Lausanne, Switzerland.

For more information, see:

Audinet, Gérard, ed. La folie en tête: Aux racines de l’art brut. Exh. cat. Paris: Paris Musées, 2017.

Beyme, Ingrid von. “Asylum Art as the ‘True Avant-Garde’?: The Surrealist Reception of ‘Mad Art.’” In Surrealism and Madness, edited by Ingrid von Beyme and Thomas Röske, pp. 154–69. Heidelberg: Wunderhorn, 2009.

Krajewski, Michael. Jean Dubuffet: Studien zu seinem Frühwerk und zur Vorgeschichte des Art brut. Osnabrück: Der Andere Verlag, 2004, especially pp. 177–83.

MacGregor, John. The Discovery of the Art of the Insane. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989, especially pp. 166–72.

Morehead, Allison. “The Musée de la folie: Collecting and Exhibiting chez les fous.Journal of the History of Collections 23, no. 1 (2011), pp. 101–26.

How to cite this entry:
Koenig, Raphael, "Auguste Marie", The Modern Art Index Project (August 2022), Leonard A. Lauder Research Center for Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. https://doi.org/10.57011/DJSA8157