The category of expression known as naïve art emerged in as a means of describing artwork that has a childlike or “primitive” appearance, and is commonly associated with the paintings of Henri Rousseau, Alfred Wallace and a few others from the 18th to the 20th century. It is also sometimes discussed with relation to art brut and other forms of outsider art because of its nonconventional appearance, and a perception that the work is done by artists who have no formal training, nor concern for the traditional rules of representation or painting. Many examples of naïve, outsider and folk art are often displayed together in galleries depending on the intentions of the exhibitors.
These confluences sometimes create a confusion between these different types of art, but the categories are distinguishable. First, while primitive art creates an impression that it is done without respect for artistic knowledge or training, many of its practitioners are conscious of traditional rules, and are simply deliberately breaking with convention – as was the case with Paul Gauguin, whose interest in naïve work came from studying the works of actual primitives and mimicking it. True outsider art or art brut is about creating work that is not cognizant of academic traditions or normal artistic criteria.
Also, while outsider pieces have presented as if they are naïve art by also displaying a “childlike” imagery or sensibility, they are usually produced by adults whose intentions are not stylistic, upon examination. Primitive art typically ignores perspective, along with disposing of attempts to reproduce the muting of colors and details of objects as they fade into the distance (to the naked eye). The naïve artist may be consciously ignoring these rules of representation, while the outside artists baby truly unaware of them or their importance. The true examples of primitive art that are devoid of conscious stylizing on those produced by other cultures who developed outside of Western conventional influence.
Naïve art therefore ranges from true examples of expression free of formality or training, to those works that are acting in a self-conscious or imitative way to reproduce a look of childlike simplicity. Indeed, according to Wikipedia, “there are now academies for naïve art. Naïve art is now a fully recognized art genre, represented in art galleries worldwide.“ Outsider art, by contrast, is devoted to all forms of modern art that is completely free of conventional influence, including attempts to react to convention. Authentic examples can be found in the works on this site.
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