In memoriam: Roger Cardinal

A picture of lily

We are saddened to hear of the death of Professor Roger Cardinal.

Roger was a stellar figure in Art History at Kent. Roger has the rare distinction of having invented a term, ‘Outsider Art’, the title of a 1972 book that has become part of the landscape.  It was his variant on Dubuffet’s ‘Art Brut’, or images produced by the untrained and neurodiverse artists.  He also produced books on Surrealism, German Romanticism, Expressionism, Paul Nash, Kurt Schwitters, and particular aspects of Outsider Art, plus numerous essays and reviews.

Dr Ben Thomas, Reader in Art History, recalled Roger: ‘Roger was a direct link with the Surrealists, and had at times an air of the Shaman about him. He was an energising presence in the department. There are few people of whom you can say that they are genuinely interdisciplinary – Roger was one.

‘He came to History of Art from French, but he could have gone pretty much anywhere in the Humanities (he used to speak Swiss German with Agnes in the Senior Common Room). He had an ability to distill the essence of complex issues to an elegant phrase. His sentences were like rounded pebbles washed smooth by the waves of his intelligence. This resulted in short books, light on footnotes and other academic impediments, which could be read again and again for their insights. My father – a musician – had read his short book on Expressionism and was genuinely excited to hear I was going to be Roger Cardinal’s colleague. This was by far the best book written on the topic. When I asked Roger about it, it turned out he had written it in a fortnight for something to do.’

An obituary for Roger may be found on The Guardian website here: