Augustin Lesage, (born August 9, 1876 in Saint-Pierre-les-Auchel (Pas-de-Calais) and died February 21, 1954), was a French coal miner who became painter and artist through the help of what he considered to be spirit voices. He was untrained and is considered an Outsider artist, part of Art Brut.
Lesage was born into a family of miners and was sent to work in a coal mine from an early age.
In 1911, when he was 35 years old, Lesage claimed he heard a voice speak to him from the darkness of the mine and tell him, “One day you will be a painter”. The only contact Lesage had had with the arts at that point in his life was a visit to the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille museum in Lille during his military service. The voice experience prompted him to explore communication with what he believed was the spirit world, and within a year of his first experience, Lesage was hearing more voices, this time specifically giving him instructions. The voice told him what to paint, what art supplies to buy and where to find them. It was his belief that the voice speaking to him was the spirit of his little sister who had died at the age of three.
On purchasing his first canvas, Lesage mistakenly bought one ten times as large as he had intended. His spirit guides instructed him not to be daunted, but to begin painting. Large canvasses became his chosen format.
Lesage went on to develop a unique, highly symmetrical style, drafting detailed patterns and monolithic constructions reminiscent of Egyptian and Oriental architectural forms.
Lesage claimed, that he would never have any idea about what he wanted to portray. “I never have an overview of the entire work at any point of the execution. My guides tell me, ” I surrender to their impulse”.
At first, Lesage never signed his paintings, and then began to sign them ‘Leonardo Da Vinci.’ It was only later that he began to add his own signature.
From 1912 Lesage began to produce a regular output of paintings. His service in the First World War interrupted his artistic pursuits, but he was able to resume his work in 1916. By 1923, Lesage was able to support himself exclusively with his artistic efforts.
His work is also categorized as part of the spiritualist movement in art.
The collector Jean Dubuffet integrated Lesage paintings into his collection in 1948 and bought his first “historic” canvas for 50,000 francs in 1964. Lesage is one of the artists featured in the booklet Art Brut Art Brut 3 by Jean Dubuffet in 1964.
Augustin Lesage paintings are represented in the Collection de l’Art Brut (Outsider Art Collection) in Lausanne, Switzerland since its opening in 1975. He was the subject of a retrospective presented at Lausanne in 1989, a catalog was published for the occasion. He is also historically the earliest of the “psychic artists” embedded in the Collection de l’Art Brut.
His volume of work is very large. At his death, he left about eight hundred paintings. Today, most of his works are held by the Lille Métropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Artin France.