Modern Art - Naïve Art

Movement: Modern Art - Naïve Art
Dates: c. 1800 - Present

Nave art is usually defined as 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). When this aesthetic is emulated by a trained artist, the result is sometimes called primitivism, pseudo-nave art, or faux nave art.

Unlike folk art, nave art does not necessarily derive from a distinct popular cultural context or tradition; indeed, at least in the advanced economies and since the Printing Revolution, awareness of the local fine art tradition has been inescapable, as it diffused through popular prints and other media. Nave artists are aware of "fine art" conventions such as graphical perspective and compositional conventions, but are unable to fully use them, or choose not to. By contrast, outsider art (art brut) denotes works from a similar context but which have only minimal contact with the mainstream art world.

Nave art is recognized, and often imitated, for its childlike simplicity and frankness. Paintings of this kind typically have a flat rendering style with a rudimentary expression of perspective. One particularly influential painter of "nave art" was Henri Rousseau (18441910), a French Post-Impressionist who was discovered by Pablo Picasso.

The definition of the term, and its "borders" with neighbouring terms such as folk art and outsider art, has been a matter of some controversy. Nave art is a term usually used for the forms of fine art, such as paintings and sculptures, but made by a self-taught artist, while objects with a practical use come under folk art. But this distinction has been disputed. Another term that may be used, especially of paintings and architecture, is "provincial", essentially used for work by artists who had received some conventional training, but whose work unintentionally falls short of metropolitan or court standards.


Nave art 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 nave art. Nave art is now a fully recognized art genre, represented in art galleries worldwide.

The characteristics of nave 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 nave art. It has, however, become such a popular and recognizable style that many examples could be called pseudo-nave.

Whereas nave 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 nave' or 'faux nave' 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 navety is unlikely to be found in contemporary artists, given the expansion of Autodidactism as a form of education in modern times. Nave categorizations are not always welcome by living artists, but this is likely to change as dignifying signals are known. Museums devoted to nave art now exist in Kecskemt, Hungary; Kovaica, Serbia; Riga, Latvia; Jaen, Spain; Rio de Janeiro, Brasil; Vicq France and Paris. Examples of English-speaking living artists who acknowledge their nave style are: Gary Bunt, Lyle Carbajal, Gabe Langholtz, Gigi Mills, Barbara Olsen, Paine Proffitt, and Alain Thomas.

"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) nave art is folk art.

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


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.

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", leading to more stylized forms, and the emergence of Naive painting. The group included the painters Krsto Hegedui, Edo Kovaevi, Omer Mujadi, Kamilo Ruika, Ivan Tabakovi, and Oton Postrunik, the sculptors Antun Augustini, Frano Krini, 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.

Hlebine School

A term applied to 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.

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 Mato and the biggest name in Croatian literature, Miroslav Krlea, 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 Hegedui and he went on to found the Hlebine School of Art in 1930 in search of national rural artistic expression.

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

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

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

Some of the best known naive artists are Dragan Gai, Ivan Generali, Josip Generali, Krsto Hegedui, Mijo Kovai, Ivan Lackovi-Croata, Franjo Mraz, Ivan Veenaj and Mirko Virius.

Museums and galleries

  • Croatian Museum of Nave Art, Zagreb, Croatia
  • Muse international d'Art naf Anatole Jakovsky, Nice, France
  • Muse d'Art Naf - Max Fourny, Paris, France
  • International Museum of Naive Art, Vicq, France

See also

  • Anatole Jakovsky
  • Chicago Imagists
  • Neo-primitivism
  • Outsider art
  • Primitivism


Further reading

  • Walker, John. "Naive Art". Glossary of Art, Architecture & Design since 1945, 3rd. ed. (archived link, April 11, 2012)
  • Bihalji-Merin, Oto (1959). Modern Primitives: Masters of Naive Painting. trans. Norbert Guterman. New York: Harry N. Abrams.
  • Fine, Gary Alan (2004). Everyday genius: self-taught art and the culture of authenticity. Chicago, IL: University Of Chicago Press. ISBN978-0-226-24950-6.

Content provided by Wikipedia

Our Mission

The History of Creativity is a visual encyclopaedia that allows you to time travel to any time and place in the past or present.