Jean-Jacques Liabeuf, « Ménagerie moderne », 1910, ink and colored pencil on paper, 49,5 x 65 cm, photo : Claudine Garcia, Atelier de numérisation – Ville de Lausanne Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne
(1886 - 1910), France
Born in Saint-Etienne, southwest of Lyon, Jean-Jacques Liabeuf was brought up by his widowed mother after his father's death when he was four. Working as a shoemaker's apprentice, he did several short prison terms for theft and at one point was banned from residence in his home city. He then moved to Paris and exercised his trade in various workshops. Having fallen in love with a prostitute, he was unjustly accused of procuring after fighting a duel with the young woman's actual procurer, who was also a police informer. On his release from prison he made himself a spiked cape and armbands, and armed himself with a revolver and shoemaker's knives. Bent on revenge, he prowled the Les Halles neighbourhood, where he encountered a police patrol; he killed one policeman and wounded four others. Sentenced to death, he was vigorously defended by various left-wing groups who saw him as an emblematic victim of a corrupt, class-based judicial system.
On the day of his execution Liabeuf handed his lawyer a bundle of coloured pencil drawings and texts dating from his time in prison. They form a rare account of his desire for revenge, his dreams of escape, and his gratitude to the lawyer for whom he had created them.