Emmanuel Derriennic, "No 11", 1963, watercolor and India ink on paper, 64,5 x 50 cm, photo : Claudine Garcia, Atelier de numérisation – Ville de Lausanne, Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne
Emmanuel Derriennic (1908–1965) was born in Guingamp, France. He came from a working-class family profoundly destabilised when his father was drafted and subsequently died. He interrupted his commercial studies at the age of seventeen, without a diploma, and began working in a bank in Brest. During his military service, he was transferred to Paris, where he met a first cousin and fell in love. The couple divorced after three years of marriage, and the young man returned to Brest to live with his mother. He found a job as an assistant bookkeeper, remarried, and started a family. After the war, they moved back to Brest, but the couple had problems with alcohol and violence. Derriennic was forced to undergo several alcohol detoxification treatments. By 1953, he was suffering from hallucinations and delusions, and was sent to a psychiatric hospital. He began to paint in an art-therapy workshop in 1958, when he was placed in a hospital a second time.
Derriennic used oil paint, which he gradually replaced with India ink diluted with water, or gouache. He used brushes, feathers, his fingers, and even his hair, initially painting the letters that form the ground of his canvases in black ink. He then ornamented them and patiently worked on their outlines, embellishing them with narrative elements and figures. A mass of small faces with fine features, depicted from the front or in profile, can often be made out.