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Year:
2011
Edition:
1. Auflage
Publisher:
Parkstone International
Language:
english
Pages:
256
ISBN 10:
1780423217
ISBN 13:
9781780423210
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Mega Square
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Natural Curiosities

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Munch

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Naive Art

Page 4:
The Violin-Player, Mihail Dascalu
oil on canvas, 120 x 80 cm, Private collection
Designed by:
Baseline Co Ltd
127-129A Nguyen Hue
Fiditourist 3rd Floor
District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam
ISBN 978-1-78042-321-0
© Sirrocco, London, UK (English version)
© Confidential Concepts, worldwide, USA
©
©
©
©
©
©
©
©
©
©

Estate
Estate
Estate
Estate
Estate
Estate
Estate
Estate
Estate
Estate

Denis/Artists Rights Society, New York, USA/ADAGP, Paris
Vivin/Artists Rights Society, New York, USA/ADAGP, Paris
Larionov/Artists Rights Society, New York, USA/ADAGP, Paris
Matisse/Artists Rights Society, New York, USA/ADAGP, Paris
Gontcharova/Artists Rights Society, New York, USA/ADAGP, Paris
Chagall/Artists Rights Society, New York, USA/ADAGP, Paris
Kandinsky/Artists Rights Society, New York, USA/ADAGP, Paris
Bauchant/Artists Rights Society, New York, USA/ADAGP, Paris
Louis/Artists Rights Society, New York, USA/ADAGP, Paris
Bombois/Artists Rights Society, New York, USA/ADAGP, Paris

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or adapted without the
permission of the copyright holder, throughout the world. Unless otherwise specified, copyrights on
the works reproduced lies with the respective photographers. Despite intensive research, it has not
always been possible to establish copyright ownership. Where this is the case we would
appreciate notification
2

Foreword
“The essence of all genuine art is ultimately naïve if we understand this
to mean purity of heart and thought.”
— Anonymous

3

Contents
Babici, Onisim . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .225
Bahunek, Branko . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .231
Bauchant, André . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .119, 121, 123, 129
Biro, Pavel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .229
Bombois, Camille . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .127, 131, 133, 135, 137, 139, 141
Chagall, Marc . . . . .;  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .103, 109
Ciobanu, Camelia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .221, 237
Ciobanu, Gheorghe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .239
Ciucurescu, Traian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
Coltet, Gheorghe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .205
Corpodean, Mircea . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .199
Cristea, Viorel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .181
Dascalu, Mikhail . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .183, 203, 241, 247
Delacroix, Michel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .85
Denis, Maurice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23
Dumitrescu, Gheorghe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .171
Duranton, André . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .59
Gauguin, Paul . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15
Generalic, Ivan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .143, 145, 213, 215
Gontcharova, Natalia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .91
Grigorescu, Ion Gheorghe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .195, 223
Hirshfield, Morris . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27
Jacob, Paula . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .151, 159, 189
Kandinsky, Vassily . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .107
Kiss, Ana . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .153, 161
Kustodiev, Boris . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .105
Larionov, Mikhail . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .35, 39, 83, 95, 115
Louis, Séraphine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .125
5

Lupascu, Alexandrina . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .149
Malevitch, Kasimir . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .93
Maric, Ion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .207
Matisse, Henri . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .79, 81
Metelli, Orneore . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .211
Mitrachita, Gheorghe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .155, 163
Nicodin, Ion Nita . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .185
Palatini, Maria . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .147
Pavelescu, Emil . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11, 243, 245
Pencea, Ion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .73
Pirosmani, Niko . . . . . . . . . . . . .19, 25, 37, 65, 67, 69, 71, 75, 77, 87
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .89, 97, 99, 101, 111, 113, 117, 165
Popescu, Catinca . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .217
Rasic, Milan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .197
Robu, Calistrat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .191, 193
Rousseau, Henri . . . . . . .17, 21, 41, 43, 45, 47, 49, 51, 53, 57, 61, 63
Sénatus, Jean-Louis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .169
Stanica, Constantin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .227
Stefanita, Elisabeta . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .187
Sturza, Gheorghe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .157, 201
Tite, Anuta . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .173, 175
Turda, Toader . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .177
Vacarciuc, Policarp . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .179
Van Gogh, Vincent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13
Vivancos, Miguel Garcia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .167
Vivin, Louis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .31, 33, 209
Volkova, Elena A. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .233, 235
Zahiu, Valeria . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .219
7

How Old is Naïve art?

T

here are two possible ways of defining
when Naïve art originated. One is to

assume that it happened when Naïve art was
first accepted as an artistic mode of status
equal to every other artistic mode. That would
date its birth to the early years of the twentieth
century.

The War of Independence
Traian Ciucurescu, 1877
Oil on glass, 30 x 25 cm
Private collection

8

9

The other is to apprehend Naïve art as no
more or less than that, and to look back into
human prehistory and to a time when all art
was of a type that might now be considered
Naïve – tens of thousands of years ago, when
the first rock drawings were etched and when
the first cave-pictures of bears and other
animals were scratched out.

The War of Independence
Emil Pavelescu, 1877
Oil on canvas, 55 x 80 cm
Private collection

10

11

If we accept this second definition, we are
inevitably confronted with the very intriguing
question, ‘So who was that first Naïve artist?’
Many thousands of years ago, then, in the
dawn of human awareness, there lived a
hunter. One day it came to him to scratch on a
smooth rock surface the contours of a deer or
a goat in the act of running away.

Weaver Seen from Front
Vincent van Gogh, 1884
Oil on canvas, 70 x 85 cm
Rijskmuseum, Amsterdam

12

13

A single, economical line was enough to
render the exquisite form of the graceful
creature and the agile swiftness of its flight.
The hunter’s experience was not that of an
artist, simply that of a hunter who had
observed his ‘model’ all his life. It is impossible
at this distance in time to know why he made
his drawing. Perhaps it was an attempt to
say something important to his family group;

The Schuffenecker Family
Paul Gauguin, 1889
Oil on canvas, 73 x 92 cm
Musée d’Orsay, Paris

14

15

perhaps it was meant as a divine symbol, a
charm intended to bring success in the hunt.
From the point of view of an art historian, such
an artistic form of expression testifies to an
awakening of individual creative energy and a
need, after its accumulation through the
process of encounters with nature, to find an
outlet for it.

Me, Landscape Portrait
Henri Rousseau, 1890
Oil on canvas, 143 x 110 cm
Narodni Gallery, Prague

16

17

This first-ever artist really did exist. He must
have existed. And he must therefore have been
truly ‘naïve’ in what he depicted because he
was living at a time when no system of
pictorial representation had been invented.
Only thereafter did such a system gradually
begin to take shape and develop. And only
when such a system is in place can there be
anything like a ‘professional’ artist.

Sign for a Wineshop
Niko Pirosmani
Oil on tin plate, 57 x 140 cm
Georgian Museum of Fine Arts, Tbilisi

18

19

It is very unlikely, for example, that the
paintings on the walls of the Altamira or
Lascaux caves were creations of unskilled
artists. The precision in depiction of the
characteristic features of bison, especially their
massive agility, the use of chiaroscuro, the
overall beauty of the paintings with their
subtleties of colorations – all these surely
reveal the brilliant craftsmanship of the professional artist.

A Woman’s Portrait
Henri Rousseau, 1895
Oil on canvas, 160 x 105 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

20

21

So what about the ‘naïve’ artist, that hunter
who did not become professional? He
probably carried on with his pictorial
experimentation, using whatever materials
came to hand; the people around him
did not perceive him as an artist, and his
efforts were pretty much ignored.

Faces in a Spring Landscape
(The Sacred Wood)
Maurice Denis, 1897
Oil on canvas, 94 x 120 cm
Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

22

23

Any set system of pictorial representation
– indeed,

any

systematic

art

mode

– automatically becomes a standard against
which to judge those who through inability or
recalcitrance do not adhere to it. The nations
of Europe have carefully preserved as many
masterpieces of classical antiquity as they have
been able to, and have scrupulously also
consigned to history the names of the classical
artists, architects, sculptors and designers.

The Girl with a Glass of Beer
Niko Pirosmani
Oil on canvas, 114 x 90 cm
Georgian Museum of Fine Arts, Tbilisi

24

What chance was there, then, for some
lesser mortal of the Athens of the fifth century
BC who tried to paint a picture, that he might
still be remembered today when most of the
ancient frescoes have not survived and time
has not preserved for us the easel-paintings of
those legendary masters whose names have
been immortalized through the written word?

Motherhood
Morris Hirshfield
Museum Charlotte Zander, Bönnigheim Castle

26

27

The name of the Henri Rousseau of
classical Athens has been lost forever – but he
undoubtedly existed. The Golden Section, the
‘canon’ of the (ideal proportions of the) human
form as used by Polyclitus, the notion of
‘harmony’ based on mathematics to lend
perfection to art – all of these derived from one
island of ancient civilization adrift in a
veritable sea of ‘savage’ peoples: that of the
Greeks.

St George Slaughtering the Dragon
Anonymous painter, glass painting
Serbia, region of Vojvodina
Private collection, Italy

28

29

The Greeks encountered this tide of
savagery everywhere they went. The stone
statues of women executed by the Scythians in
the area north of the Black Sea, for example,
they regarded barbarian ‘primitive’ art and its
sculptors as ‘naïve’ artists oblivious to the laws
of harmony. As early as during the third
century BC the influence of the ‘barbarians’
began to penetrate into Roman art, which at
that time was largely derivative of Greek
models.

St Martin’s Gate
Louis Vivin
Oil on canvas, 50 x 61 cm
Museum Charlotte Zander, Bönnigheim Castle

30

31

The Romans believed not only that they
were the only truly civilized nation in the world
but that it was their mission to civilize others
out of their uncultured ways, to bring their
primitive art forms closer to the rigorous
standards of the classical art of the Empire. All
the same, Roman sculptors felt free to interpret
form in a ‘barbaric’ way, for instance by
creating a sculpture so simple that it looked
primitive and leaving the surface uneven and
only lightly polished.

Still Life with Butterflies and Flowers
Louis Vivin
Oil on canvas, 61 x 50 cm
Museum Charlotte Zander, Bönnigheim Castle

32

The result was ironically that the ‘correct’
classical art lacked that very impressiveness
that was characteristic of the ‘wrong’ barbaric
art. Having overthrown Rome’s domination of
most of Europe, the ‘barbarians’ dispensed
with the classical system of art.

A Fruit Shop
Mikhail Larionov, 1904
Oil on canvas, 66 x 69 cm
Russian Museum, St Petersburg

34

35

It was as if the ‘canon’ so notably realized
by Polyclitus had never existed. Now art
learned to frighten people, to induce a state of
awe and trepidation by its expressiveness.
Capitals in the medieval Romanesque cathedrals swarmed with strange creatures with
short legs, tiny bodies and huge heads.

A Barn
Niko Pirosmani
Oil on cardboard, 72 x 100 cm
Georgian Museum of Fine Arts, Tbilisi

36

37

Who carved them? Very few of the
creators’ names are known. Undoubtedly,
however, they were excellent artisans, virtuosi
in working with stone. They were also true
artists, or their work would not emanate such
tremendous power. These artists came from
that parallel world that had always existed, the
world of what Europeans called ‘primitive’ art.

A Provincial Dandy
Mikhail Larionov, 1907
Oil on canvas, 100 x 89 cm
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

38

Reflections on Naïve Art
‘Naïve’ art, and the artists who created it,
became well known in Europe at the beginning of the twentieth century. Who were these
artists, and what was their background? To
find out, we have to turn back the clock and
look at the history of art at that time. It is
interesting that for much of the intervening
century, the Naïve artists themselves seem to

The Representatives of Foreign Powers
Coming to Greet the Republic as a Sign of Peace
Henri Rousseau, 1907
Oil on canvas, 130 x 161 cm
Musée Picasso, Paris

40

41

have attracted rather less attention than those
people responsible for ‘discovering’ them
or publicizing them. Yet that is not unusual.
After all, the Naïve artists might never have
come into the light of public scrutiny at all if it
had not been for the fascination that
other young European artists of the avantgarde movement had for their work – avantgarde artists whose own work has now,

View from the Bridge of Sèvres
and the Hills of Clamart and Bellevue
Henri Rousseau, 1908
Oil on canvas, 80 x 120 cm
Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

42

43

at the turn of the millennium, also passed into
art history. In this way we should not consider
viewing works by, say, Henri Rousseau, Niko
Pirosmani, Ivan Generalic, André Bauchant or
Louis Vivin without reference at the same time
to the ideas and styles of such recognized
masters as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Joan
Miró, Max Ernst and Mikhail Larionov.

Father Juniet’s Cart
Henri Rousseau, 1908
Oil on canvas, 97 x 129 cm
Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris

44

45

But of course, to make that reference itself
presents problems. Who was influenced by
whom, in what way, and what was the result?
The work of the Naïve artists poses so many
questions of this kind that experts will
undoubtedly still be trying to unravel the
answers for a good time yet.

In the Rain Forest
Henri Rousseau, 1908
Oil on canvas, 46 x 55 cm
The Hermitage, St Petersburg

46

47

The main necessity is to establish for each
of the Naïve artists precisely who or what the
main source of their inspiration was. This
has then to be located within a framework
expressing the artist’s relationship to the
‘classic’ academic (‘official’) art of the period.
Difficult as it is to make headway in such
research, matters are further complicated by

Guillaume Apollinaire and Marie Laurencin
Henri Rousseau, 1909
Oil on canvas, 200 x 389 cm
The Hermitage, St Petersburg

48

49

the fact that such questions may themselves
have more than one answer – and that each
answer may be subject to different interpretation by different experts anyway. It gets worse.
All the time the works of previously unknown
Naïve artists are coming to light, some of them
from the early days of Naïve art, some of them
relatively contemporary.

View on the Fortifications,
from the Left of the Vanves Gate
Henri Rousseau, 1909
Oil on canvas, 31 x 41 cm
The Hermitage, St Petersburg

50

51

Their art may add to our understanding of
the phenomenon of Naïve art or may change
it altogether. For this reason alone it would
simply not be feasible to come to an
appreciation of Naïve art that was tightlydefined, complete and static.

The Spell
Henri Rousseau, 1909
Oil on canvas, 45.5 x 37.5 cm
Museum Charlotte Zander, Bönnigheim Castle

52

In this study, therefore, we will contemplate
only those outstanding – yet outstandingly
diverse – examples of Naïve art that really do
constitute pointers towards a genuine style,
a genuine direction in pictorial representation,
albeit one that is currently little known. Think
of this book, if you like, as a preliminary
sketch for a picture that will be completed by
future generations.

Romanian Painting

54

55

It is difficult – perhaps even impossible – to
quantify the influence of Henri Rousseau, Niko
Pirosmani and Ivan Generalic on professional
‘modern’ artists and the artworks they
produce. The reason is obvious: the three of
them belonged to no one specific school and,
indeed, worked to no specific system of art.

A Negro Attacked by a Panther
Henri Rousseau, ca. 1910
Oil on canvas, 114 x 162 cm
Museum of Arts, Basle

56

57

It is for this reason that genuine scholars
of Naïve art are somewhat thin on the
ground. After all, it is hard to find any
basic element, any consistent factor that unites
their art and enables it to be studied as a
discrete phenomenon. The problems begin even
in finding a proper name for this kind of art.

Notre-Dame-de-Paris
André Duranton

58

No single term is descriptive enough. It is
all very well consulting dictionaries – they are
not much use in this situation. A dictionary
definition of a ‘primitive’ in relation to art, for
example, might be ‘An artist or sculptor of the
period before the Renaissance’.

Horse Attacked by a Jaguar
Henri Rousseau, 1910
Oil on canvas, 89 x 116 cm
Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

60

61

This definition is actually not unusual in
dictionaries today – but it was first written in
the nineteenth century and is now badly out of
date because the concept of ‘primitive’ art has
expanded to include the art of non-European
cultures in addition to the art of Naïve artists
worldwide.

A Walk in the Montsouris Park
Henri Rousseau, ca. 1910
Oil on canvas, 46.5 x 38.5 cm
Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

62

In incorporating such a massive diversity of
elements, the term has thus taken on a
broadness that renders it, as a definition, all
too indefinite. The description ‘primitive’
is simply no longer precise enough to apply
to the works of untaught artists.

Still Life
Niko Pirosmani
Oil on tin plate, 36 x 73 cm
Georgian Museum of Fine Arts, Tbilisi

64

65

The word ‘Naïve’, which implies naturalness, innocence, unaffectedness, inexperience,
trustfulness, artlessness and ingenuousness,
has the kind of descriptively emotive ring to it
that clearly reflects the spirit of such artists. But
as a technical term it is open to confusion. Like
Louis Aragon, we could say that ‘It is naïve to
consider this painting naïve.’

Still Life
Niko Pirosmani
Oil on tinplate, 36 x 73 cm
Georgian Museum of Fine Arts, Tbilisi

66

67

Many other descriptive expressions have
been suggested to fill the gap. Wilhelm Uhde
called the 1928 exhibition in Paris Les Artistes

du Sacré-Cœur, apparently intending to
emphasize not so much a location as the
unspoiled,

pure nature

of

the

artists’

dispositions. Another proposal was to call
them ‘instinctive artists’ in reference to the
intuitive aspects of their method.

The Grape-Pickers
Niko Pirosmani
Oil on canvas, 118 x 184 cm
Georgian Museum of Fine Arts, Tbilisi

68

69

Yet another was ‘neo-primitives’ as a sort
of reference to the idea of nineteenth-century
style ‘primitive’ art while yet distinguishing
them from it. A different faction picked up on
Gustave Coquiot’s observation in praise of
Henri Rousseau’s work and decided they
should be known as ‘Sunday artists’.

The Bego Company
Niko Pirosmani
Oil on canvas, 66 x 102 cm
Georgian Museum of Fine Arts, Tbilisi

70

71

Of all the various terms on offer, it was
‘Naïve’ that won out. This is the word that is
used in the titles of books and in the names of
a growing number of museums. Presumably, it
is the combination of moral and aesthetic
factors in the work of Naïve artists that seems
appropriate in the description.

… And with the Sergeant that Makes Ten
Ion Pencea
Oil on canvas, 50 x 55 cm
Private collection

72

73

Gerd Claussnitzer alternatively believes
that the term is meant pejoratively, as a
nineteenth-century comment by the realist
school on a visibly clumsy and unskilled style
of painting. For all that, to an unsophisticated
reader or viewer the term ‘Naïve artist’ does
bring to mind an image of the artist as a very
human sort of person.

The Wedding
Niko Pirosmani
Oil on canvas, 113 x 177 cm
National Museum of Oriental Art, Moscow

74

75

Every student of art feels a natural
compulsion to try to classify the Naïve artists,
to categorize them on the basis of some
feature or features they have in common. The
trouble with this is that the Naïve artists – as
noted above – belong to no specific school of
art and work to no specific system of
expression.

A Bear in the Moonlight
Niko Pirosmani
Oil on oil-cloth, 100 x 80 cm
Georgian Museum of Fine Arts, Tbilisi

76

Which is precisely why professional artists
are so attracted to their work. Summing up his
long life, Maurice de Vlaminck wrote: ‘I seem
initially to have followed Fauvism, and then
to have followed in Cézanne’s footsteps.
Whatever – I do not mind… as long as first of
all I remained Vlaminck.’

Girl with Tulips
(Portrait of Jeanne Vaderin)
Henri Matisse, 1910
Signed and dated bottom left: Henri Matisse 10
Oil on canvas, 92 x 73,5 cm
The Hermitage, St Petersburg
78

Naïve artists have been independent of
other forms of art from the very beginning. It is
their essential quality. Paradoxically, it is their
independence that determines their similarity.
They tend to use the same sort of themes and
subjects; they tend to have much the same sort
of outlook on life in general, which translates
into much the same sort of painting style.

Goldfish
Henri Matisse, 1911
Oil on canvas, 147 x 98 cm
Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

80

81

And this similarity primarily stems from the
instinctual nature of their creative process. But
this apart, almost all Naïve artists are or have
been to some extent associated with one or
other non-professional field of art. The most
popular field of art for Naïve artists to date
has been folk art.

A Waitress
Mikhail Larionov, 1911
Oil on canvas, 102 x 70 cm
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

82

83

From Popular Tradition to Photography
Naïve Artists and Folk Art
A Naïve artist creates singular and inimitable
works of art. This is because, for the most part,
the Naïve artist is not a professional artist but
has a quite separate occupation by which he
or she earns a living, in which he or she relies
on a totally different set of skills (in which he or
she may be expert enough to achieve
considerable job satisfaction), and which takes

Notre-Dame under Snow
Michel Delacroix
Oil on canvas, 82 x 60 cm
International Museum of Naïve Art, Vicq

84

85

up much of his or her daily life. The twentieth
century has seen many a ‘Sunday artist’ who
has attracted imitators and patrons but who
has never ceased to look at the world through
the eyes of his or her workaday occupation.
Particularly characteristic of them is an
artisan’s diligence and pride in the works of
art they produce.

A Lamb and a Laden Easter Table
with Angels in the Background
Niko Pirosmani
Oil on oil-cloth, 80 x 100 cm
Georgian Museum of Fine Arts, Tbilisi

86

87

They take their ‘professional’ attitude
towards their workaday occupation and
transfer it on to their creations. They have no
access to elite artistic circles, and would not be
accepted by them if they had. The Naïve artists
thus live in a small world, often a provincial
world, a world that has its own artisans – the
producers of folk art.

Portrait of Ilya Zdanevitch
Niko Pirosmani, 1913
Oil on cardboard, 150 x 120 cm
The Schuster collection, St Petersburg

88

Some say that folk artists have for centuries
repeated the same forms using the same
colours in the same style, and are doomed
therefore endlessly to reproduce the same
subjects in their art and to the same standards.
But folk artists do not only produce traditional forms of applied art – they also make
shop-signs and colourfully ornate panels for
stalls and rides at fairs.

At Table
Natalia Gontcharova, 1914
Sketch for the unmade curtain
of the Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera

90

91

And although these artisans’ work is rooted
in their own form of expertise, it is often very
difficult to draw a distinct line to separate their
work from that of Naïve artists. Sometimes,
after all, the power in the colorations, the sense
of modernity and the feel for line and form in
an artisan-made sign can elevate it to the level
of an outstanding and individual work of art.

Military Popular Print
Kasimir Malevitch, 1914
lithograph in colour, 33.7 x 56 cm
Russian Museum, St Petersburg

92

93

At the same time it should be remembered that when Henri Rousseau or Niko
Pirosmani painted a restaurant sign or was
commissioned by neighbours to depict a
wedding in their house or their new cart in the
barn, the resulting piece would be considered
by all to be artisans’ work.

Venus and Mikhail
Mikhail Larionov, 1912
Oil on canvas, 68 x 85.5 cm
Russian Museum, St Petersburg

94

95

In Russia, the painted sign has always
enjoyed a special status, and those who are
exceptionally talented at producing them
deserve recognition as genuine Naïve artists.
‘A sign in Russia has no equivalent in Western
cultures,’ wrote the artist David Burliuk in
1913.

Woman with Flowers and an Umbrella
Niko Pirosmani
Oil on oil-cloth, 111 x 52 cm
Georgian Museum of Fine Arts, Tbilisi

96

97

‘The utter illiteracy of our people [and he
was being quite serious at the time] has made
it an absolute necessity as a means of
communication between shopkeeper and
customer. In the Russian sign the folk genius for
painting has found its only outlet.’

A Fisherman
Niko Pirosmani
Oil on oil-cloth, 113 x 93 cm
Georgian Museum of Fine Arts, Tbilisi

98

A multitude of bylaws and regulations
governed the size and shape and even the
look of signs in urban environments. It was
the inventive capacity of the creators that
helped them find a way through the maze
of restrictions.

A Woman Milking a Cow
Niko Pirosmani, 1916
Oil on cardboard, 81 x 100 cm
Georgian Museum of Fine Arts, Tbilisi

100

101

By the end of the nineteenth century the
best of the sign-painters were putting their
names to their works: one or two were even
making a reputation for themselves. At the turn
of the twentieth century one name that became
well known in St Petersburg in this way
was that of Konstantin Grushin.

Bathing a Baby
Marc Chagall, 1916
Tempera on cardboard, 59 x 61 cm
Art and Architecture History Museum, Pskov

102

103

His work on behalf of the shopkeepers of
the city included magnificent still lifes of fruit
and vegetables, and picturesque landscapes
with bulls or birds. Signs were supposed to be
painted against a black border. Despite this
regulation, the painter Yevfimiy Ivanov
managed to produce works of art that truly
befitted such a description.

A Tavern in Moscow
Boris Kustodiev, 1916
Oil on canvas, 99.3 x 129.3 cm
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

104

105

His style was free and broad, his
composition uninhibited yet expert. Notwithstanding the fact that the functional nature of
signs imposed upon them a certain need for a
quality of flatness and ornamentation, each
artist dealt with this requirement in his or her
own way.

Imatra
Vassily Kandinsky, 1917
Watercolour on paper, 22.9 x 28.9 cm
Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

106

107

A panel meant to advertise Shabarshin’s
Furniture Delivery Services, for example,
painted by the talented Konstantin Filippov,
may be called a sign only because there are
words on it. In all other respects it is an easelpainting. Powerfully-portrayed draught-horses
are set against a delicately refined backdrop.

The Market Place
Marc Chagall, 1917
Oil on canvas, 66.3 x 97 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

108

109

The wheels and harnesses of the horses are
meticulously executed. In overall style this work
is typical of urban Naïve artists, reminiscent of
The famous Father Juniet ’s Cart by Henri
Rousseau. Ready-to-wear clothes shops were
particularly blessed in the quality of their signs.

A Deer Family
Niko Pirosmani, 1917
Oil on cardboard, 95 x 145 cm
Collection of the Grammeleki family, Tbilisi

110

111

Vasily Stepanov’s advertising signs for
the shops of a certain Mr Kuzmin featured
fashionably-dressed ladies and gentlemen, but
he made them look as if they had been asked
to sit for ceremonial portraits, virtually in salon
style. Stepanov did, however, include some
elements of parody.

The Beauty of Ortatchal
Niko Pirosmani, diptych 1 and 2
Oil on canvas, 52 x 117 cm
Georgian Museum of Fine Arts, Tbilisi

112

Singular in themselves and yet typical of
their kind,

these

signs

were

supremely

representative of their time and location, and
as such constitute a sort of historical document.
It was no wonder that signs like these were
prized so highly by the artists of the Russian
avant-garde (the artists of Picasso's generation) that they started to collect them.

A Girl at Hairdresser’s
Mikhail Larionov, 1920’s
Oil on canvas, 159 x 152 cm
From the former collection of Tomilia Larionova, Paris

114

The poet Benedikt Livshitz wrote, ‘A
burning desire for things primitive, and
especially for the signs painted to advertise
provincial establishments of such trades as
laundry, hairdressing, and so on – as had had
a profound effect on Larionov, Goncharova
and Chagall – caused Burliuk to spend all the

The Actress Marguerite
Niko Pirosmani
Oil on canvas, 117 x 94 cm
Georgian Museum of Fine Arts, Tbilisi

116

117

money he had on buying signs created by
artisans…For Burliuk it was not simply a
matter of satiating a temporary whim involving
a fad for folk art, a sudden craze for the
primitive in all its manifestations, such as the
art of Polynesia or ancient Mexico. No,
this enthusiasm was far more profound.’
Reflecting on the origins of the interest of the
avant-garde in primitive art as a whole,

Mother and Child with a Bunch of Flowers
André Bauchant, 1922
Oil on canvas, 72.3 x 58.5 cm
Museum Charlotte Zander, Bönnigheim Castle

118

Livshitz quoted an eloquent statement by the
brothers David and Vladimir Burliuk. ‘There
has been no progress whatsoever in art – has
been none, and never will be any! Etruscan
statues of the gods are in no way inferior to
those of [the ancient Athenian] Phidias. Each
era has the right to believe that it initiates a
Renaissance.’

Still Life with Rabbit
André Bauchant, 1924
Oil on canvas, 100 x 67 cm
Museum Charlotte Zander, Bönnigheim Castle

120

121

Historical circumstances delayed the onset
of the industrial revolution in Russia. The chaos
that surrounded the political Revolution
hindered the authorities from re-establishing
order in urban centres for some considerable
time.

Bunch of Flowers in a Landscape
André Bauchant, 1926
Oil on canvas, 100 x 67 cm
Museum Charlotte Zander, Bönnigheim Castle

122

123

Nevertheless,

the

production

of

the

traditional shop-signs continued for a while not
only in rural areas but also in St Petersburg
and in Moscow. The German philosopher and
diarist Walter Benjamin, who endeavoured to
create a written ‘portrait’ of contemporary
Moscow, inscribed in his diary on 13
December 1926, ‘Here, just as in Riga, they

Bouquet
Séraphine Louis, ca. 1927-1928
Oil on canvas, 117 x 89 cm
Museum Charlotte Zander, Bönnigheim Castle

124

125

have wonderful painted signs – shoes falling
out of a basket, a Pomeranian [Spitz dog]
running off with a sandal between his jaws. In
front of one Turkish restaurant there are two
signs set like a diptych featuring a picture of
gentlemen wearing fezzes with crescents on
them sitting at a laid table.’

An Old Mansion in Périgueux
Camille Bombois, ca. 1928
Oil on canvas, 100 x 81 cm
Museum Charlotte Zander, Bönnigheim Castle

126

Painted shop-signs eventually disappeared.
They became unnecessary, too expensive in
time and cost, thanks to the arrival of the
machine-dominated world in which everything
could be produced mechanically, and where
there was no place left in the severely
insensitive urban environment for Naïve art
that came from the heart.

Love and Flowers
André Bauchant, 1929
Oil on canvas, 174 x 109 cm
Museum Charlotte Zander, Bönnigheim Castle

128

129

During the decades of the Soviet Union,
some Naïve artists continued to paint privately,
deep within a closed family circle involving
only family members and trusted neighbours
who went on thinking of them as artists.

At the Brothel
Camille Bombois, ca. 1930
Oil on canvas, 46 x 55 cm
Museum Charlotte Zander, Bönnigheim Castle

130

Others joined the numerous art studios, so
leaving the ranks of the Naïve while yet not
being accepted into the ranks of the
professional artists. The popular Russian
magazine, Ogonyok, has from time to time
included prints of works of art by ‘ordinary
people’. In 1987 its readers were introduced
to the pictures of Yelena Volkova.

Mario, Fratellino and Little Walter
Camille Bombois
Oil on canvas, 65 x 50 cm
Museum Charlotte Zander, Bönnigheim Castle

132

133

Brought up on an island not far from the
Ukrainian city of Chuguyev, she tended
to concentrate on painting riverside trees with
bright green foliage, other scenes featuring
people and animals, and equally colourful
still lifes.

The Athlete
Camille Bombois, ca. 1930
Oil on canvas, 130 x 89 cm
Musée national d’art moderne - Centre Georges-Pompidou, Paris

134

135

The disparate elements of everyday
existence combine in Volkova’s art to produce
works that have much of the idyllic in them – a
trait characteristic of many (and quite possibly
all) Naïve artists. A generally happy world is
painted to portray that happiness, only in a
brighter, richer, yet more serene way.

At the Bar
Camille Bombois
Oil on canvas, 55 x 46 cm
Museum Charlotte Zander, Bönnigheim Castle

136

Yelena Volkova came to painting at a
mature age, but her creative imagination
draws on her childhood memories, particularly those filled with the dazzling colours of the
village fairs. Folk crafts were still blossoming in
Russia in those days.

Nude
Camille Bombois

138

Pottery, lacework, wooden toys and household articles, and so forth, were an integral
part of ordinary rural life. Unhappily, today
many of these traditions have been irretrievably lost. Yet aesthetic notions that
derive from them continue to have some
influence not only in rural districts but in urban
areas too.

A Naked Woman Sitting
Camille Bombois, ca. 1936
Oil on canvas, 100 x 81 cm
Museum Charlotte Zander, Bönnigheim Castle

140

Eccentric personages who have a driving
passion for painting pictures in their spare time
should not automatically be associated with
folk arts and crafts, however. On the contrary,
such an association remains relatively rare by
the end of the twentieth century.

The Shepherd and the Flock
Ivan Generalic

142

For one thing, whatever the conscious
intentions of Naïve artists are when they create
their works of art, it is their own interests
– their own choice of subject matter and
presentation – that they are realizing. In that
respect, such interests, influenced, for instance
by the kitsch environment of a city market,
remain the same no matter what or where the
city is, no matter even if the city is Paris and the

In the Meadow
Ivan Generalic

144

145

artists regularly visit the Louvre. But where this
association between Naïve art and folk art has
been established in an artist, is it possible to
distinguish the different elements in the artist’s
work, to differentiate between the art of Naïve
art and the kitsch of the city-market folk art?

The Christening of the Ship
Maria Palatini

146

147

National characteristics manifest themselves
in a much more powerful way in the sort of
Naïve art that is closely associated with folk art
than in the unified classical system of art. Their
presence is more evident where such an
association remains intimate, most often in the
work of rural artists, and less evident in the
sanitized environment of a big city.

Fishing
Alexandrina Lupascu
Oil on card, 32 x 45 cm
Private collection

148

149

Anatoly Yakovsky has suggested that a
fondness for folk art is more noticeable in a
country that has undergone a sudden
transition from the era of the artisan to the age
of the modern industrial complex. This would
explain how it is that in some of the Latin
American countries, for instance, or in Haiti,

The Clowns
Paula Jacob
Oil on canvas, 50 x 40 cm
Private collection

150

where there has been a synthesis of a darkly
pagan religion with no less primitive forms of
Christianity, enthusiasts have searched for and
found Naïve paintings of outstanding quality.
The works of the Brazilian and Haitian Naïve
artists retain an essentially Brazilian or Haitian
feel to them because their connection with the
assorted influences of local religions and crafts
has not yet loosened.

Making One’s Farewells
Ana Kiss
Oil on card, 42 x 53 cm
Private collection

152

153

Back at that threshold between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, Russia
was in the process of becoming an industrial
power in Europe, yet its virtually medieval
artistic craftsmanship remained pretty well
unchanged. The diarist Walter Benjamin
(quoted above) was astounded by the multicoloured diversity of life on the Moscow
streets:

Country Folk at Table, Yesterday and Today
Gheorghe Mitrachita
Oil on canvas, 50 x 60 cm
Private collection

154

155

‘Women – dealers and peasant – farmers – set
up their baskets with their wares in front of
them… The baskets are full of apples, sweets,
nuts, sugary confections… It is still possible
here to find people whose baskets contain
wooden toys, small carts and spades. The
carts are yellow and red, the spades are
yellow or red… All the toys are simpler and
more robust than in Germany – their rustic
origins are very plain to see. On one street

The Park of Distraction
Gheorghe Sturza
Oil on card, 38 x 47 cm
Private collection

156

157

corner I encountered a woman who was
selling Christmas tree decorations. The glass
spheres, yellow and red, were shining in the
sun as if she was holding a magic basket of
apples, some yellow and some red. In this
place – as in some others I have been to – I
could feel a direct connection between wood
and colour.’

The Fishermen
Paula Jacob
Oil on canvas, 40 x 50 cm
Private collection

158

159

It was this multicoloured Russia which at the
beginning of the twentieth century provided
the impetus for a rejuvenation of painting, a
new palette for the pictures of Boris Kustodiev,
Vassily Kandinsky, Kasimir Malevitch, Ilya
Mashkov, Pyotr Konchalovsky, Aristarkh
Lentulov and Marc Chagall, together with
those of Mikhail Larionov and Natalia
Goncharova.

The Harvest
Ana Kiss
Oil on canvas, 42 x 48 cm
Private collection

160

161

And it was here, among its thronging city
streets and markets, at the junction of East and
West, where talented but untaught painters
were devising and executing their own works
of art. The artists ‘discovered’ by Larionov
could hardly be compared with Niko
Pirosmani but the point is they existed! One of
them has since become fairly well known.

Prince Michael Viteazul and the Turks
Gheorghe Mitrachita
Oil on canvas, 60 x 80 cm
Private collection

162

163

Morris Hirshfield was born in 1870 in what
is now Poland but was then part of the Russian
Empire. His pictures very much reflect the rural
tastes of Polish life at the time, and feature clay
cat-shaped money-boxes, wall hanging with
butterflies, flowers and nudes.

Yellow Lion Sitting
Niko Pirosmani
Oil on cardboard, 99 x 80 cm
Georgian Museum of Fine Arts, Tbilisi

164

The pictures of Camille Bombois also have
a lot to do with fairs (at one stage he earned
his living as a wrestler in a travelling circus),
only for the most part those of Paris. His
vigorous depictions of athletes, circus shows
and nude models are the very embodiment of
Parisian street life of the time. For clear
evidence of national traits in the work of Naïve
artists we need look no further than Hegedusic.

The Banks of the River Seine
Miguel Garcia Vivancos, 1957

166

167

His intention was specifically to identify the
roots of Croatian art, and to encourage works
that represented those roots. The result was not
so much an artistic school that he founded at
the village of Hlebin as a collection of
individual talents all working according to
similar precepts. Brightest among his protégés
was Ivan Generalic.

Haitian Landscape
Jean-Louis Sénatus

168

169

Ivan Generalic
Generalic was born in 1914, and for various
reasons received only four years of formal
education. He started painting on wood and
glass (as was the custom in Balkan villages)
and only later took to water-colour and oil
painting on paper and canvas. In his
approach to art he was a classic ‘Sunday
artist’.

Festival Day
Gheorghe Dumitrescu
Oil on card, 35 x 48 cm
Private collection

170

171

‘Generalic is a peasant – a real peasant –
who does all the work in the fields and in the
vineyard himself,’ wrote Robert Wildhaber,
who visited Generalic in search of folk art
objects to display in his museum in Basle.
‘When he has time, and in moments of
inspiration, he sits and paints on the very table
on which he served us our dinner… His
bedroom he uses as a picture gallery.

The Preparation of a Future Bride
Anuta Tite
Oil on card, 50 x 60 cm
Private collection

172

173

His own paintings hang there interspersed with
photographs. His custom is to paint on glass –
only rarely does Generalic work on wood. It is
quite delightful how this thickset giant of a man
with the strong hands of a peasant is apt to
explain that the wood of a tree is hard, and he
does not always feel its inner warmth, but that
he always feels the inner warmth in glass.’

The Wedding
Anuta Tite
Oil on card, 38 x 45 cm
Private collection

174

175

This last comment is especially interesting.
Painting on glass has long been a traditional
form of folk art not only in the Balkans but also
in Switzerland, France, Germany and the
Ukraine, whereas painting on wood has been
the standard form for village craftsmen and
icon-painters all over Europe and in much of
the world.

The Dance of the Young Married Woman
Toader Turda
Oil on wood, 60 x 40 cm
Private collection

176

177

It is natural, then, that wood and glass tend
to be the media on which Naïve artists paint
their first works, if not all their subsequent
works. Most of the talented rural painters of
Hlebin have therefore continued to paint in oil
on glass for the duration of their creative life;
rarely have they ever crossed over to canvas.

Nightfall
Policarp Vacarciuc
Oil on canvas, 38 x 47 cm
Private collection

178

179

The connection with traditional, local arts
and crafts by no means disqualifies village
artists of anywhere in the world from the
worldwide community of Naïve artists. Such
rural pictures have every right to be regarded
as a genuine easel-painting and to be
compared with those of Rousseau.

Harvest Time
Viorel Cristea
Oil on card, 30 x 40 cm
Private collection

180

181

Rustic artists acquired their devotees and
their patrons, and their works have become
prominent in many museum collections. In the
comparatively small but diversely populated
country of Switzerland, located right in the
centre of Europe, there has long been concern
that forms of folk art might disappear under
the manifold pressures of industrial society.

Around the Mill
Mihail Dascalu
Oil on canvas, 80 x 100 cm
Private collection

182

183

This is an area where the traditions of folk
art exist perhaps less at the level of the nation
than at the level of the canton: not only the
artists themselves but the cantonal authorities
too are very concerned to preserve what they
can of their local culture.

Harvesting the Apples
Ion Nita Nicodin
Oil on canvas, 50 x 60 cm
Private collection

184

185

Oil painting on glass (and in particular, the
works of René Auberjonois, of Lausanne)
has received some notable commendation
from ‘professional’ artists, which constitutes
formidable support for it. Artists of truly rustic
traditions, however, have tended to paint in oil
or water-colour on cardboard, and their
primary subject matter has been cows going
up to an Alpine meadow.

The Sheepfold
Elisabeta Stefanita
Tapestry, 100 x 200 cm
Private collection

186

187

The oldest existing examples of paintings
like this date back to the 1700s, although it is
more than probable that such scenes really go
back hundreds of years and focus on a
geographical area surrounding the Säntis
mountain group in the east of Switzerland, on
the Liechtenstein border.

Ship with Butterflies and Flowers
Paula Jacob
Oil on canvas, 70 x 55 cm
Private collection

188

Sharp outlines and an individual sense of
colour in these works make them reminiscent of
the Russian lubok. Unlike a lubok, however,
each Swiss scene is signed by its artist, and the
names of some Swiss artists of this sort have
been known since the nineteenth century. They
have not been forgotten either, thanks to their
individual style and perception of the world.

Red Horse
Calistrat Robu
Oil on card, 60 x 45 cm
Private collection

190

One of them was Conrad Starck, perhaps
most famous for the painted scene with which
he decorated a milking-pail. Typifying the local
Swiss scenery as he knew it, there is a cow,
slung around the neck of which is a huge cowbell; there is a rustic labourer wearing a red
waistcoat above yellow trees; a rather sketchy
tree; and some dogs, without which no Swiss
mountain-farmer could work.

The Giant Fish
Calistrat Robu
Oil on canvas, 70 x 50 cm
Private collection

192

This somewhat stereotyped though uninhibited approach by the artist is of course excused
by the fact that it is all simply decoration for a
milking-pail. The same stock subjects are also
included in another painting of a milking-pail
by Bartolomäus Lemmer in 1850, although the
painting is totally different. The labourer is
striding forward with a confident gait, a pipe
between his teeth, followed by a shabby dog.

The Organ Player of Barbary
Ion Gheorghe Grigorescu
Oil on canvas, 60 x 45 cm
Private collection

194

195

A group of large, not to say fierce, cattle
charge towards him in the background. Such
functional decoration is rarely painted with
distinctive expressiveness or freedom. Many
rural artists painted virtually nothing else
but cows going up to an Alpine meadow,
strangely clean farms, herds of goats and pigs,
and the occasional yokel on a mountainside.

My Village in the Spring
Milan Rasic
48.5 x 39 cm
Croatian Museum of Naïve Art, Zagreb

196

But each artist had his or her own way of
painting. For the most part, the pictures were
neither sensational nor innovative, especially
when an artist was deliberately following an
older, traditional style. Sometimes, just
sometimes, the style is broad and free – a
reminder that the artist has truly been part of
the twentieth century.

Prince Michael Viteazul and the Turks
Mircea Corpodean
Oil on glass, 40 x 30 cm
Private collection

198

In this dual way, the artists have created an
image of their country that is comparatively modern and have yet preserved the spirit
of the art of their tradition. To quote the words
of one of Henri Rousseau’s defenders in the

Salon des Indépendants, ‘It is unreasonable to
believe that people who are capable of
affecting us in such a powerful way are not
artists.’

The Attack
Gheorghe Sturza
Oil on canvas, 43 x 58 cm
Private collection

200

201

Naïve Artists and Photography
The end of the nineteenth century and the
beginning of the twentieth gave Naïve artists
another source of inspiration. By this period
photography had become so practical that
photographs – of parents, of brothers and
sisters, of children and grandchildren, of entire
family groups – decorated the walls of houses.

The Violin Player
Mihail Dascalu
Oil on canvas, 120 x 80 cm
Private collection

202

203

This is the way it was in Ivan Generalic’s
house. For many people, from the time
photography

began

to

‘compete’

with

painting, the qualities of a photograph
represented aesthetic criteria. The result was
that some artists were simply defeated by it.
Others, like Edgar Degas, turned the world
view, as seen through the lens of a camera, to
their advantage.

Ox-Drawn Vehicle
Gheorghe Coltet
Oil on card, 42 x 56 cm
Private collection

204

205

Now it was possible to commission from
the local artist a portrait of your child which
should ‘look like a photo’, because photography had that unique ability to catch and
retain an image with the honesty of a mirror.
No idealization was allowed, and the
scrupulous rendition of every little detail of a
face or of clothing was not only mandatory but
tended to influence the poses people took up
and the overall composition of the picture.

The Last Path
Ion Maric
Oil on canvas, 80 x 130 cm
Private collection

206

207

It is often because they reflect the standards
of photography that pictures produced by
otherwise very different Naïve artists – a
French Rousseau, say, a Georgian Pirosmani,
an Italian Metelli or a Polish Nikifor – may
look similar. Rousseau’s portrait of a female
figure that was purchased by Picasso,

Allegory
Louis Vivin
Oil on canvas, 91.5 x 76 cm
Museum Charlotte Zander, Bönnigheim Castle

208

and even the Self-Portrait by Joan Miró,
conformed in many ways to the aesthetics of
photography – not perhaps to those of genuine
artists with the camera but to those of the
photographers at fairs, who sat their models
one after another on the same plain chair in
front of the same velvet curtain.

Self-Portrait as a Musician
Orneore Metelli

210

211

Whereas reproductions and prints of
paintings

were

not

widely

available,

photography soon became an established part
of urban and rural life. Photographers were to
be found at bazaars and fairs among the stalls
of folk arts such as painted pottery and
crockery, woven baskets and rugs, and
wooden artefacts.

Nightscape
Ivan Generalic, 1964

212

Photography entered every house as a
form of art. Its influence on what people
thought of ‘art’ is simply impossible to ignore.
Naïve artists probably mastered the lessons of
photography before the pros and cons of the
medium in relation to professional art were
fully appreciated by professional artists.

River Landscape
Ivan Generalic, 1964

214

215

Is Naïve Art Really Naïve?
Naïve Artists and Professional Artists
Once when I was in a small town in Estonia
during the mid-1960s, I was lucky enough to
meet an elderly landscape painter. With a
small brush he was making neat strokes with
oil-paint on specially prepared cardboard. In
the foreground he was establishing a pattern
of lacy foliage, while clusters of trees in the
background created large circles.

Winter in the Countryside
Catinca Popescu
Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 cm
Private collection

216

217

The elderly artist was building up spatial
perspective according to the classic method –
with a transition from warm to cold colours –
although the contrasts between yellow, green
and blue tonal values in the foliage were
transforming what was an overgrown park
into a magical forest. The artist told me that he
had created his first works way back during
his childhood. There then followed a gap of
many decades during which he was employed
at the local match factory.

Spring
Valeria Zahiu
Oil on canvas, 40 x 50 cm
Private collection

218

219

He returned to painting only upon his
retirement. He insisted that he had never been
outside Estonia, had never seen works of art at
the Hermitage – the nearest large art museum
(in St Petersburg, Russia) – had no knowledge
about other European art or artists, had never
himself attended any kind of formal art
training, and was not acquainted even with
any other ‘Sunday artists’.

The Spellbound Tree
Camelia Ciobanu
Oil on canvas, 100 x 80 cm
Private collection

220

221

It was difficult to believe him, for his work
was distinctly reminiscent of the landscapes of
Jacob van Ruisdael, Meindert Hobbema and
Paul Cézanne. If he was telling the truth, how
can such a likeness be explained? If he was not
telling the truth – why not? Not only did the
most reputable Naïve Artist, Henri Rousseau,
make no attempt to conceal his admiration for
professional art – on the contrary – he made it
evident on every possible occasion.

The Donkey who Made Money
Ion Gheorghe Grigorescu
Oil on canvas, 40 x 60 cm
Private collection

222

223

He idolized those professional artists who
received awards at the salons and whose
works were despised as academic banalities
by the avant-garde artists. In his autobiographical jottings he loved to name-drop,
mentioning particularly advice given to him by
Clément and Gérôme. When he received
permission from the authorities in 1884 to
make copies of paintings in the national
galleries such as the Louvre, the Musée du

Flowers
Onisim Babici
Oil on canvas, 40 x 45 cm
Private collection

224

225

Luxembourg and Versailles, Rousseau told
others (including Henri Salmon, who repeated
it later) that he was going to the Louvre 'in
order to seek the masters' advice'. His pictures
thereafter testify that he knew how to put this
advice into practice. The most diligent of
Academy graduates might have been envious
of his working method.

The Lilies
Constantin Stanica
Oil on canvas, 45 x 40 cm
Private collection

226

227

He made many drawing and sketches in
situ, paid close attention to his painting
technique, and thoroughly worked the canvas'
surface. The condition of Rousseau’s paintings
today is much better than that of many of the
professional artists of the time. His work was
never spontaneous, details were never an end
in themselves, and each picture has an overall
integrity of composition.

General Staff Headquarters
Pavel Biro
Oil on canvas, 45 x 50 cm
Private collection

228

His virtuoso brushwork inspired admiration, and the refinement evident in his
technique is reminiscent of the paintings of
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. It is in Rousseau’s
attempts to render perspective that his
limitations become obvious. The lines often do
not converge at the correct angle, and instead
of receding into the distance his paths tended
to climb up the canvas.

The Town Square
Branko Bahunek, 1974

230

231

Perhaps we ought to remember, however,
that Rousseau himself said in one of his letters
that ‘If I have preserved my Naïveté, it is
because M. Gérôme… and M. Clement…
always insisted that I should hang on to it.’ But
in view of the imperfections of his painting it is
difficult to believe that they all stem from the
deliberate rejection of the scientific principles
of perspective laid down by Leonardo da Vinci
and Leon Battista Alberti.

Folk Party by the Irtich River
Elena A. Volkova

232

233

The history of art presents us with a number
of excellent examples of artists who became
professional only at a mature age and
managed nonetheless to master that science of
painting that comes much easier to those who
are younger. The number is, however, not
large. Only a few outstanding individuals –
like Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh – are
capable of such achievement.

A Maiden from Siberia
Elena A. Volkova

234

235

For all that, striving for the ‘correct’ way to
paint and endeavouring to follow methods
taught in art schools and practiced by the
great masters is a trait present in almost every
Naïve artist. Although Niko Pirosmani had no
Hermitage or Louvre to visit, he was familiar
with the works of other artists in contemporary
Tbilisi, and tried to follow the professional
‘rules’ as far as he could.

Country Landscape with Cows and Sunflowers
Camelia Ciobanu
Oil on canvas, 80 x 80 cm
Private collection

236

237

Perspectives in his landscapes, however,
the anatomical proportions of his models and
the positioning of human figures within his
pictures were all prone to the errors also to be
seen in the works of Le Douanier Rousseau.
They reveal that characteristic awkwardness
common to artists who start painting as adults.
But like Rousseau, Pirosmani took great pride
in his own individuality. Despite the amazing
diversity of Naïve artists, then, their relationship with professional art is basically the same.

Harvesting the Fruits
Gheorghe Ciobanu
Oil on canvas, 35 x 45 cm
Private collection

238

239

It would, after all, be extremely difficult to
find a person who took up a brush and just
started creating oil paintings without any
previous knowledge of painting and without
ever having seen the pictures of the great
masters even by way of reproductions on
postcards. Moreover, the seeds of this
knowledge have fallen on to many different
sorts of ground. The landscapes of Ivan
Generalic, for example, are remarkable for
their

classical

construction

and

perspective.

The Broken Bridge
Mihail Dascalu
Oil on canvas, 50 x 70 cm
Private collection

240

spatial

241

Generalic’s

figures

move

with

such

expression that those of Claude Lorrain and
Pieter Brueghel spring to mind. He most
probably owed these qualities to his mentor,
Hegedusic. The other Croatian rural artists of
Hlebin quite often established perspective in
stages up the canvas, and their portrayals of
the human figure were little or no more than
childish. Analysis of Naïve art against
professional criteria points to the conclusion
that French and German, Polish and Russian,
Latin American and Haitian artists all have
some qualities in common.

Across Town by Cab
Emil Pavelescu
Oil on canvas, 80 x 100 cm
Private collection

242

243

On the one hand all of them have a fairly
clear idea of art as taught in art schools, and
strive towards it. On the other hand they all
possess that clumsiness which results in a
characteristic manner of expression and which
is itself responsible for the lack of balance in
their works, resulting in outlandishly bold
exaggeration or, conversely, in painstaking
attention to detail. These, though, are the very
qualities for which Naïve artists have become
best known.

A View of Estoril
Emil Pavelescu
Oil on canvas, 80 x 100 cm
Private collection

244

245

At the same time, if an adult person finds
himself or herself striving earnestly towards an
artistic goal and yet comes to the realization
that his or her limitations make the goal
unattainable, he or she might well be tempted
to conceal any familiarity with the basics of
art. Indeed, André Malraux once described
Rousseau as being ‘able to get what he wants
like a child and being slightly devious with it’.

The Spellbound Tree
Mihail Dascalu
Oil on canvas, 120 x 80 cm
Private collection

246

Index
A
A Barn

37

A Bear in the Moonlight

77

A Deer Family
A Fisherman

99

A Fruit Shop

35

A Girl at Hairdresser’s
A Lamb and a Laden Easter Table with Angels in the Background

115
87

A Maiden from Siberia

235

A Naked Woman Sitting

141

A Negro Attacked by a Panther

57

A Provincial Dandy

39

A Tavern in Moscow

105

A View of Estoril

245

A Walk in the Montsouris Park

63

A Waitress

83

A Woman Milking a Cow
A Woman’s Portrait

248

111

101
21

Across Town by Cab

243

Allegory

209

An Old Mansion in Périgueux

127

… And with the Sergeant that Makes Ten
Around the Mill
At Table

73
183
91

At the Bar

137

At the Brothel

131

B
Bouquet

125

Bunch of Flowers in a Landscape

123

C
Country Folk at Table, Yesterday and Today

155

Country Landscape with Cows and Sunflowers

237

249

F
Faces in a Spring Landscape (The Sacred Wood)

23

Father Juniet’s Carriage

45

Festival Day

171

Fishing

149

Flowers

225

Folk Party by the Irtich River

233

G
General Staff Headquarters

229

Girl with Tulips (Portrait of Jeanne Vaderin)

79

Goldfish

81

Guillaume Apollinaire and Marie Laurencin

49

H
Haitian Landscape

169

Harvest Time

181

Harvesting the Apples

185

Harvesting the Fruits

239

Horse Attacked by a Jaguar

250

61

I
Imatra

107

In the Meadow

145

In the Rain Forest

47

L
Love and Flowers

129

M
Making One’s Farewells

153

Mario, Fratellino and Little Walter

133

Me, Landscape Portrait

17

Military Popular Print

93

Mother and Child with a Bunch of Flowers
Motherhood
My Village in the Spring

119
27
197

N
Nightfall

179

Nightscape

213

251

Notre-Dame-de-Paris

59

Notre-Dame under Snow

85

Nude

139

O
Ox-Drawn Vehicle

205

P
Portrait of Ilya Zdanevitch

89

The Preparation of a Future Bride

173

Prince Michael Viteazul and the Turks

199

Prince Michael Viteazul and the Turks

163

R
Red Horse

191

River Landscape

215

Romanian Painting

55

S

252

Self-Portrait as a Musician

211

Ship with Butterflies and Flowers

189

Sign for a Wineshop
Spring

19
219

St George Slaughtering the Dragon

29

St Martin’s Gate

31

Still Life

65

Still Life

67

Still Life with Butterflies and Flowers

33

Still Life with Rabbit

121

T
The Actress Marguerite

117

The Athlete

135

The Attack

201

The Banks of the River Seine

167

Bathing a Baby

103

The Beauty of Ortatchal

113

The Bego Company

71

The Broken Bridge

241

The Christening of the Ship

147

The Clowns

151

253

The Dance of the Young Married Woman

177

The Donkey who Made Money

223

The Fishermen

159

The Giant Fish

193

The Girl with a Glass of Beer

25

The Grape Pickers

69

The Harvest

161

The Last Path

207

The Lilies

227

The Market Place

109

The Organ Player of Barbary

195

The Park of Distraction

157

The Representatives of Foreign Powers Coming to Greet
the Republic as a Sign of Peace

41

The Schuffenecker Family

15

The Sheepfold

187

The Shepherd and the Flock

143

The Spell

254

53

The Spellbound Tree

221

The Spellbound Tree

247

The Town Square

231

The Violin Player

203

The War of Independence

9

The War of Independence

11

The Wedding

75

The Wedding

175

V
Venus and Mikhail

95

View from the Bridge of Sèvres and the Hills of Clamart and Bellevue

43

View on the Fortifications, from the Left of the Vanves Gate

51

W, Y
Weaver Seen from Front

13

Winter in the Countryside

217

Woman with Flowers and an Umbrella
Yellow Lion Sitting

97
165

255