Folk art encompasses art produced from an indigenous culture or by peasants or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic. Folk Art is characterized by a naive style, in which traditional rules of proportion and perspective are not employed. Closely related terms are Outsider Art, Self-Taught Art and Naïve art.
As a phenomenon that can chronicle a move towards civilization yet rapidly diminish with modernity, industrialization, or outside influence, the nature of folk art is specific to its particular culture. The varied geographical and temporal prevalence and diversity of folk art make it difficult to describe as a whole, though some patterns have been demonstrated.
Characteristically folk art is not influenced by movements in academic or fine art circles, and, in many cases, folk art excludes works executed by professional artists and sold as "high art" or "fine art" to the society's art patrons. On the other hand, many 18th- and 19th-century American folk art painters made their living by their work, including itinerant portrait painters, some of whom produced large bodies of work.
Other terms that overlap with folk art are naïve art, tribal art, primitive art, pop art/popular art, outsider art, traditional art, tramp art, self-taught art, and working-class art/blue-collar art. As one might expect, these terms can have multiple and even controversial connotations but are often used interchangeably with the term "folk art".
Folk art expresses cultural identity by conveying shared community values and aesthetics. It encompasses a range of utilitarian and decorative media, including cloth, wood, paper, clay, metal and more. If traditional materials are inaccessible, new materials are often substituted, resulting in contemporary expressions of traditional folk art forms. Folk art reflects traditional art forms of diverse community groups — ethnic, tribal, religious, occupational, geographical, age- or gender-based — who identify with each other and society at large. Folk artists traditionally learn skills and techniques through apprenticeships in informal community settings, though they may also be formally educated.
Antique folk art
Antique folk art is distinguished from traditional art in that, while collected today based mostly on its artistic merit, it was never intended to be 'art for art’s sake' at the time of its creation. Examples include: weathervanes, old store signs and carved figures, itinerant portraits, carousel horses, fire buckets, painted game boards, cast iron doorstops and many other similar lines of highly collectible "whimsical" antiques.
Contemporary folk art
Many folk art traditions like quilting, ornamental picture framing, and decoy carving continue to thrive, while new forms constantly emerge.
Contemporary folk artists are frequently self-taught while their work is often developed in isolation or in small communities across the country. The Smithsonian American Art Museum houses over 70 such artists.
Influence on mainstream art
Folk art, and styles and motifs, have inspired various artists. Pablo Picasso was inspired by African tribal sculptures and masks, while in Russia Natalia Goncharova and others were inspired by traditional woodcuts called luboks. In music, Igor Stravinsky's seminal The Rite of Spring was inspired by paganism.
- African folk art
- American Folk Art Museum
- Chinese folk art
- Guy Cobb
- John William "Uncle Jack" Dey
- Juliana R. Force
- Latin American Retablos
- Madhubani painting
- Mingei (Japanese folk art movement)
- Naïve art
- Nakshi Kantha
- Nose art
- North Malabar
- Outsider art
- Phad painting
- Pakistani vehicle art
- Rural crafts
- Thidambu Nritham
- Tribal art
- Warli painting
- Czech folklore
- West, Shearer (general editor), The Bullfinch Guide to Art History, page 440, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, United Kingdom, 1996. ISBN 0-8212-2137-X
- "History of Art: Folk Art, Naive Art". all-art.org. Retrieved 2014-01-30.
- Bishop, Robert and Weissman, Judith Reiter. The Knopf Collectors' Guides to American Antiques: Folk Art. Knopf. 1983
- Slide show of 73 works of folk art with brief descriptions Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved July 6, 2011
- Goncharova Biography, Hatii, retrieved 19/2/2012
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