These terms define working artists without a formal arts education. Originally coined by French artist Jean Dubuffet who viewed art produced without academic instruction to be more authentic. This group of artists are also labeled “primitive” “naive” “folk” “vernacular” and are often segregated from the realm of “high” art. The style was made popular from the 1930s -1950s due to a 1938 traveling exhibition Masters of Popular Painting, developed by WPA-FAP director and several museum curators which called the artists “Modern Primitives”.
- Bill Traylor, (1854-1949) Traylor was an enslaved man and farmworker who worked on an Alabama plantation he was raised on until the owners died. By age 82, Traylor couldn’t work due to rheumatism and was homeless. He started creating art he hawked on street corners. This caught the eye of Charles Shannon, an artist who bought Traylor’s work and organized a solo exhibit.Subject matter was mainly Images of farm workers, animals, and blue-color Alabamians. Few works sold to anyone outside of Shannon. Traylor became popular after his death.
Untitled (Blue Man on Red Object) c.1939 https://high.org/collections/untitled-blue-man-on-red-object/
- Horace Pippin (1888-1946) Pippin has a style similar to Jacob Lawrence. His subject matter varied from portraits and still lifes, to landscapes and biblical themes. Pippin held various jobs before entering WWI as a member of the Harlem Hell Fighters and was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for heroism. He was discharged in 1919 with a partially paralyzed arm and had to re-learn how to paint. Pippin exhibited his work in shop windows in West Chester, PA in the 1930s and as part of the Masters of Popular Painting exhibition. By 1939, Pippen was represented by a Philadelphia gallery specializing in folk art. https://www.nga.gov/collection/artist-info.25.html
The Hoe Cake, c. 1946 https://njstatemuseumfoundation.givecloud.co/product/6825/the-hoe-cake-matted-print
- Gee’s Bend Quilters (1930s – Present) is a female cooperative of quilters in the remote African American town of Gee’s Bend (now Boykin), Alabama. Arlonzia Pettway, Annie Mae Young and Mary Lee Bendolph are among the most notable quilters. Many of the residents can trace their ancestry back to enslaved people.