Naïve art

For the Red Flag album, see Naïve Art (album).
Henri Rousseau's The Repast of the Lion (circa 1907), is an example of naïve art.

Naïve art is any form of visual art that is created by a person who lacks the formal education and training that a professional artist undergoes (in anatomy, art history, technique, perspective, ways of seeing).[1] When this aesthetic is emulated by a trained artist, the result is sometimes called primitivism, pseudo-naïve art,[2] or faux naïve art.[3] Unlike folk art, naïve art does not necessarily evidence a distinct cultural context or tradition.[1] Naïve art is recognized, and often imitated, for its childlike simplicity and frankness.[4] Paintings of this kind typically have a flat rendering style with a rudimentary expression of perspective.[5]

One particularly influential painter of "naïve art" was Henri Rousseau (1844–1910), a French Post-Impressionist who was discovered by Pablo Picasso.


Naïve art[6] is often seen as outsider art that is by someone without formal (or little) training or degree. While this was true before the twentieth century, there are now academies for naïve art. Naïve art is now a fully recognized art genre, represented in art galleries worldwide.

The characteristics of naïve art are an awkward relationship to the formal qualities of painting, especially not respecting the three rules of the perspective (such as defined by the Progressive Painters of the Renaissance):

  1. Decrease of the size of objects proportionally with distance,
  2. Muting of colors with distance,
  3. Decrease of the precision of details with distance,

The results are:

  1. Effects of perspective geometrically erroneous (awkward aspect of the works, children's drawings look, or medieval painting look, but the comparison stops there)
  2. Strong use of pattern, unrefined color on all the plans of the composition, without enfeeblement in the background,
  3. An equal accuracy brought to details, including those of the background which should be shaded off.

Simplicity rather than subtlety are all supposed markers of naïve art. It has, however, become such a popular and recognizable style that many examples could be called pseudo-naïve.

Whereas naïve art ideally describes the work of an artist who did not receive formal education in an art school or academy, for example Henri Rousseau or Alfred Wallis, 'pseudo naïve' or 'faux naïve' art describes the work of an artist working in a more imitative or self-conscious mode and whose work can be seen as more imitative than original.

Strict naïvety is unlikely to be found in contemporary artists, given the expansion of Autodidactism as a form of education in modern times. Naïve categorizations are not always welcome by living artists,[7][8] but this is likely to change as dignifying signals are known. Museums devoted to naïve art now exist in Kecskemét, Hungary; Riga, Latvia; Jaen, Spain; Rio de Janeiro, Brasil; Vicq France and Paris. Examples of English-speaking living artists who acknowledge their naïve style are: Gary Bunt,[9] Lyle Carbajal,[10] Jonathan Kis-Lev, Gabe Langholtz,[11] Gigi Mills,[12] Barbara Olsen,[13] Paine Proffitt,[14] and Alain Thomas.[15]

"Primitive art" is another term often applied to art by those without formal training, but is historically more often applied to work from certain cultures that have been judged socially or technologically "primitive" by Western academia, such as Native American, subsaharan African or Pacific Island art (see Tribal art). This is distinguished from the self-conscious, "primitive" inspired movement primitivism. Another term related to (but not completely synonymous with) naïve art is folk art.

There also exist the terms "naïvism" and "primitivism" which are usually applied to professional painters working in the style of naïve art (like Paul Gauguin, Mikhail Larionov, Paul Klee).[16]


Nobody knows exactly when the first naive artists appeared on the scene, as from the very first manifestations of art right up to the days of the "Modern Classic", naive artists quite unconsciously bequeathed us unmistakable signs of their creative activity. At all events, naive art can be regarded as having occupied an "official" position in the annals of twentieth-century art since - at the very latest - the publication of the Der Blaue Reiter, an almanac in 1912. Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, who brought out the almanac, presented 6 reproductions of paintings by le Douanier' Rousseau (Henri Rousseau), comparing them with other pictorial examples. However, most experts agree that the year that naive art was "discovered" was 1885, when the painter Paul Signac became aware of the talents of Henri Rousseau and set about organizing exhibitions of his work in a number of prestigious galleries.[17]

Earth Group

The Earth Group (Grupa Zemlja) were Croatian artists, architects and intellectuals active in Zagreb from 1929 to 1935. The group was Marxist in orientation and was partly modelled on "Neue Sachlichkeit",[18] leading to more stylized forms, and the emergence of Naive painting. The group included the painters Krsto Hegedušić, Edo Kovačević, Omer Mujadžić, Kamilo Ružička, Ivan Tabaković, and Oton Postružnik, the sculptors Antun Augustinčić, Frano Kršinić, and the architect Drago Ibler. The Earth group searched for answers to social issues. Their program emphasised the importance of independent creative expression, and opposed the uncritical copying of foreign styles. Rather than producing art for art's sake, they felt it ought to reflect the reality of life and the needs of the modern community. Activities at the group's exhibitions were increasingly provocative to the government of the day, and in 1935 the group was banned.[19]

Hlebine School

A term applied to Yugoslav (Croatian) naive painters working in or around the village of Hlebine, near the Hungarian border, from about 1930. At this time, according to the World Encyclopedia of Naive Art (1984), the village amounted to little more than ‘a few muddy winding streets and one-storey houses’, but it produced such a remarkable crop of artists that it became virtually synonymous with Yugoslav naive painting.[20]

Hlebine is a small picturesque municipality in the North of Croatia that in 1920s became a setting against which a group of self-taught peasants began to develop a unique and somewhat revolutionary style of painting. This was instigated by leading intellectuals of the time such as the poet Antun Gustav Matos and the biggest name in Croatian literature, Miroslav Krleza, who called for an individual national artistic style that would be independent from Western influences. These ideas were picked up by a celebrated artist from Hlebine – Krsto Hegedusic and he went on to found the Hlebine School of Art in 1930 in search of national “rural artistic expression”.[21]

Ivan Generalić was the first master of the Hlebine School, and the first to develop a distinctive personal style, achieving a high standard in his art.[22]

After the Second World War, the next generation of Hlebine painters tended to focus more on stylized depictions of country life taken from imagination. Generalić continued to be the dominant figure, and encouraged younger artists, including his son Josip Generalić.

The Hlebine school became a worldwide phenomenon with the 1952 Venice Biennale and exhibitions in Brazil and Brussels.[23]

Some of the best known naive artists are Dragan Gaži, Ivan Generalić, Josip Generalić, Krsto Hegedušić, Mijo Kovačić, Ivan Lacković-Croata, Franjo Mraz, Ivan Večenaj and Mirko Virius.


18th century

An example of Janko Brašić's work. Kosovski Boj (the Battle of Kosovo)
Matija Skurjeni's "Old Paris"

19th century

20th century

Juego de Domino, Oil on canvas by Jose Fuster.
The Domino Players (Juego de Domino), Oil on canvas, by Cuban artist José Rodríguez Fuster.

Museums and galleries

An anonymous painter from Pernambuco, Brazil: Landscape.
An anonymous painter from Kharkiv: Papa Gueye.


See also


  1. 1 2 Benedetti, Joan M. (19 April 2008). "Folk Art Terminology Revisited: Why It (Still) Matters". In Roberto, K. R. Radical Cataloging: Essays at the Front. McFarland. p. 113. ISBN 978-1-4766-0512-8.
  2. Risatti, Howard (15 September 2009). "Aesthetics and the Function/Nonfunction Dichotomy". A Theory of Craft: Function and Aesthetic Expression. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. p. 223. ISBN 978-0-8078-8907-7. OCLC 793525283.
  3. Levy, Silvano (2008). Lines of Thought: The Drawings of Desmond Morris. Kettlestone: Kettlestone Press. p. 138. ISBN 978-0-9560153-0-3. OCLC 377804527.
  4. Walker, John Albert (26 April 1992). Glossary of Art, Architecture, and Design Since 1945. London: Library Association Publishing. p. 433. ISBN 978-0-85365-639-5. OCLC 26202538.
  5. Matulka, Denise I. (2008). "Anatomy of a Picture Book: Picture, Space, Design, Medium, and Style § Naïve Art". A Picture Book Primer: Understanding and Using Picture Books. Westport: Libraries Unlimited. p. 80. ISBN 978-1-59158-441-4. OCLC 225846825.
  6. Nathalia Brodskaïa L'Art naïf éd. Parkstone International ISBN 9781859956687
  7. Geller, Amy. "Lure of the Naïve" (PDF). Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  8. [translation, [text] Natalia Brodskaia ;; Darton], adaptation Mike (2000). Naïve art. New York: Parkstone Press. p. 74. ISBN 1859953352. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  9. "Gary Bunt, English Village Life". Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  10. "Lyle Carbajal: Painting". Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  11. "Gabe Langholtz Naive Modern". Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  12. "Gigi Mills". Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  13. "Biography Barbara Olsen". Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  14. "All Work: Paine Proffitt". Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  15. "Alain THOMAS, an artist in the Garden of Eden". Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  16. Irina Arnoldova. Painter Sergey Zagraevsky: the view of an art critic
  17. "WetCanvas: Articles: Jan and Adrie Martens: An Introduction to Naive Art". Retrieved 2016-03-17.
  18. "I_CAN - Texts - page sent at 2005/04/13 17:54". Retrieved 2016-03-17.
  19. "I_CAN - Texts - page sent at 2005/04/13 17:54". Retrieved 2016-03-17.
  20. "Hlebine School - oi". doi:10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095939383.
  21. "Hlebine School of Art: More than peasant doodles". MoonProject. Retrieved 2016-03-17.
  22., Otvorena mreza -. "The Croatian Museum of Naive Art - Guide to the Permanent Display". Retrieved 2016-03-17.
  23. DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Croatia. Penguin. 2015-04-07. ISBN 9781465441737.
  24. Mariner's Museum and Peluso, Anthony J., Jr., The Bard Brothers -- Painting America under Steam and Sail, Abrams, New York 1997 ISBN 0-8109-1240-6
  25. Permanent member of Museum of Naïve and Marginal Art in Jagodina
  26. Listed artist by The Israel Museum in Jerusalem
  27. "Croatian Museum of Naive Art". Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  28. "Gallery of Croatian Naive Art".
  29. "Musée international d'Art naïf Anatole Jakovsky".
  30. "International Museum of Naive Art".
  31. Museum of Hungarian Naive Artists (Kecskemét) (Hungarian)
  32. Museo Internacional de Arte Naïf "Manuel Moral" - Manuel Moral International Museum of Naïve Art

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