by Maire Toom
There are people who paint pictures, and people who try to analyse and classify them to better understand why and how different phenomena have come to exist.
All the labels given are illusory, as art, in its continuous flux, is always richer, more elusive, and has more layers than the term, which has been invented to characterise it. We should simply accept that.
Naive art, as a branch of modern art.
It is significant that naive art as a trend in art came to exist at the end of the 19th century, in Paris, as one of the alternatives to academic art.
At that time, the academic teaching had reached a crisis. Its rules, strict and remote from life, had become an obstacle in the way of the development of art.
All the schools of art that came to existence at the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century were opposed to the academic approach and were looking for new means of expression. The difference between naive art and other trends lies in the fact that while other ‘-isms’ were born from the unity of thought and practise, created theories and published manifestos, naive art showed up with an irresponsible self-evidence.
In fact, the phenomenon has always existed in the world, if one thinks of the art of different peoples. But ethnic art is predominantly anonymous and has developed over the centuries. Naive art, however, is personalised, and has been created in a different context.
Having said that, it becomes obvious that the advocates of naive art were, first and foremost, innovative artists. Thus, the efforts of a classic naivist, Henri Rousseau, were supported by the group of artists who were there during the birth of cubism – Pablo Picasso, Robert Delaunay, and Guillaume Apollinaire.
Originally, naive art denoted the works of people who had not studied art
Not everyone who had the wish and the spark to create art in them had a chance to obtain a higher education. So, they would depict the world and its people just the way they were able to. It was a free and natural self-expression.
A naivist turns incapacity into ability
A naivist paints according to the best of his knowledge and abilities, using whatever talent nature may have given him. Mostly, he tries to imitate ‘real’ artists. The fact that the result is one of a kind, a little strange, a little funny, gives a special value to naive works.
Blood will out…
Almost all ‘post-academic’ art trends that sprung up in the beginning of the 20th century have been condemned by the audience: ‘That’s no art, a child could do that.’ And they are partially right. A number of classic modernist works are easy to copy (a black square on a white background, etc.). But at the moment of creation, it has meant discovering new worlds, seeking unprecedented opportunities, expressing special states of perception (an empty space as a philosophical and cosmic term, etc.).
It is the same with naive art. Behind these seemingly simplistic paintings, there is a man with a unique perception of the world who has had the will, courage, and faith to express himself via painting. And nature has given him a divine spark, without which no art is born, as well as the drive in his blood that has inspired greatness throughout human history.