Morton Bartlett - November 23, 2012 through April 14, 2013

Morton Bartlett

The Collection de l’Art Brut proudly presents, jointly with the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart (Contemporary Art Museum), Berlin, a first European solo show devoted to the American Art Brut creator Morton Bartlett (1909-1992). Initially featured in Berlin, the show now travels to Lausanne.

In 1996, the New York gallery owner Marion Harris donated forty-two Morton Bartlett works to the Collection de l’Art Brut. This significant body of lead pencil drawings also includes various plaster sculptures depicting children–such as two little girls—as well as studies of ears and feet, a dental mold, faces bearing a variety of expressions, painstakingly detailed sets of clothing and black-and-white photographs printed from the original negatives. Morton Bartlett produced all of these pieces over a period of twenty-seven years, from 1936 to 1963. In fact, Bartlett lent substance to a reconstituted family rooted in childhood. His entire oeuvre, which was discovered in his home after his death at eighty-three, was conceived for personal ends, so that none of it ever went on public display during his lifetime. The Collection de l'Art Brut holds the major share of his production, but the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco both possess a number of his photographs.

Morton Bartlett created his works in all secrecy, outside the bounds of his professional life. An orphan who was adopted at the age of eight, and later a childless bachelor, he became a freelance commercial photographer in Boston. He was to relinquish that profession for health reasons, going on to work at various jobs (manager of a gas station, furniture sales representative...) and, finally, to set up a graphic design agency: Morton Bartlett and Associates. At the age of twenty-seven, and in parallel with his jobs, he began creating about fifteen plaster dolls, together with their clothes and accessories. He could spend up to fifty hours bringing a doll's facial expression alive, and up to a year modeling, casting and painting an entire doll. Since the dolls had detachable limbs, Bartlett could constitute myriad figures using heads, arms and legs that he fashioned and then assembled onto a trunk. Moreover, having created countless accessories (hats, dresses, handbags), he could also transform any doll as he wished. Once he had dressed and adorned them according to his fancy, he would shoot photos of them with the benefit of special lighting and elaborate staging. The prints present the dolls as lifelike creatures, endowed with a troubling realism that has captured the interest of such contemporary artists as Cindy Sherman, and the Jake and Dinos Chapman pair. Today, some fifty years later, the prints retain all their fascinating vitality.

The Collection de l'Art Brut extends its heartfelt thanks to the lenders of these works, namely Marion Harris (New York), James Brett (Museum of Everything, London) and Susanne Zander (Galerie Susanne Zander, Cologne).
It also thanks the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, and the About Change Foundation.
Family Found trailer: a documentary on Morton Bartlett's discovery.

RTS2 Broadcast "Babylone" dedicated to dolls (in french)

Practical Information


From November 23, 2012 to April 14, 2013


November 22, 2012, 6:30pm
with Claudia Dichter and Marion Harris in attendance

Exhibition Curator

Claudia Dichter


Udo Kittelmann, Claudia Dichter, Morton Bartlett, co-edition Collection de l’Art Brut and Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, 2012. With a text by Lee Kogan, curator emerita at the American Folk Art Museum, and a postface by Sarah Lombardi, director of the Collection de l’Art Brut. Bookshop

Poster, postcards

Standard Swiss ("world format") size poster (50.4 x 35.6 in) and A3 size (11.7 x 16.5 in) poster of the exhibition; postcards.


The exhibition is not accessible to persons with reduced mobility.

Free Guided Tours

Thursday 29 November  2012, at 6:30pm
Saturday 9 Fevruary 2013, at 11am
Advanced booking on a first come first served basis.

Free guided tours  for teachers of secondary school levels and higher

Wednesday 28 November 2012, at 2pm
Advanced booking on a first come first served basis.

Guided tours upon request

For groups and classes (in French, German, English, Italian)


The New York musician Erik Friedlander will be giving a concert at the Collection de l'Art Brut. As the musician who performs the musical score for the film on Bartlett, he will treat the audience to compositions by John Zorn.
Tuesday 5 February 2013, 9pm, Collection de l’Art Brut.
Limited number of seats, reservations online or at 021 315 25 70. Entrance fee: CHF 15.-


The exhibition Morton Bartlett is not accessible to people with reduced mobility.