Naive Art Explained

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). Unlike folk art, naïve art does not necessarily evidence a distinct cultural context or tradition.

Paintings of this kind typically have a flat rendering style with a rudimentary expression of perspective. When this aesthetic is emulated by a trained artist, the result is sometimes called primitivism, pseudo-naïve art, or faux naïve art.

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

Naïve art is often seen as outsider art which is without a 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 paintings especially non-respect of the three rules of the perspective (such as defined by the Progressive Painters of the Renaissance):
1. Decrease of the size of the objects proportionally with distance,
2. Muting of colours 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 colour 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.