James Edward Deeds

  • The Collection de l’Art Brut proudly presents the first European show devoted to drawings by James Edward Deeds Jr. (1908-1987).
    A native American, at the age of 28 this creator was committed to what was named at the time the State Lunatic Asylum No. 3, located in Nevada (Missouri). There he produced two-hundred eighty-three individually numbered drawings, which he went on to sew together, with the help of a needle, into a personal album.
    In the period from 1936 to 1966, James Edward Deeds applied himself with painstaking attention to executing drawings in lead pencil, ink and colored pencil, using the psychiatric institution's official ledger paper as supports. His wide-ranging subject matter includes a number of figures and avidly staring portraits, as well as animals, vehicles (including steam boats) and landscapes. He also enjoyed sketching architectural sights and buildings, including, notably, the institution to which he was confined and the wide expanse of gardens surrounding it. He added a caption in large capitals to most of the pieces and, in some cases, thus identified his portait subject's identity.
    The discovery of the album in question was somewhat roundabout. It was in 1969 when, while moving from one residence to another, James Edward's brother Clay—who had inherited the album from James Edward—gave it to the moving van workers in exchange for their services. Considering the token gift to be useless, the movers promptly threw it into the rubbish bin. A young boy passing by took hold of it and held on to it for many years before putting it on the market in 2006, page after page. The current owners of the work brought the full set and, after a five-year search, ended up discovering the identity of its creator. In the meantime, he had been nicknamed "The Electric Pencil," in reference to the letters ECT appearing on several of his drawings but, most probably, in fact an acronym for "electro convulsive therapy," together with the word "PENCIL" written above one of them.
    The Collection de l'Art Brut extends warmest thanks to the owners of the drawings and to the Hirschl & Adler Galleries of New York who represent them.
  • Practical Information


    March 15 - june 30 2013

    Opening Reception

    Thursday 14 March 2013, 6:30pm
    at the Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne
    - Thomas B. Parker - Hirschl & Adler Galleries (New York) will be attending.

    Exhibition curator

    Sarah Lombardi


    "The Drawings of the Electric Pencil", New York, Electric Pencil Press, 2010, accompanied by a text in English by Lyle Rexer, and full-page color plates of the 283 drawings by Deeds. 

    Poster, postcards

    Affiche format mondial (120 x 90 cm) et affichette de l’exposition; cartes postales.


    The show is accessible to persons with reduced mobility.

    Free guided tours

    Saturday 23 March 2013 at 2pm
    Saturday 4 May 2013 at 2pm
    Online booking, within the limits of the seats available.

    Free guided tours upon request

    for groups and classes: in French, German, English and Italian

    Free guided tours for teachers of secondary school levels and higher

    Thursday 21 March, 5pm (length 60 minutes).
    Online booking, within the limits of the seats available.

    Sarah Lombardi about James Edward Deeds on RTS (Espace 2/ Les matinales)