Art Styles in 20th century Art Map




see also:

Edward Hicks
Ammi Phillips
Erastus Salisbury Field
Henri Rousseau
Grandma Moses
John Kane
Niko Pirosmani
Henry Darger
Maud Lewis
Nina Barka
Ivan Generalic
Ivan Rabuzin
Charles Wysocki
Josip Generalic
Adrie Martens



I. Birth of Naive Art

II. Back to the Sources: From the Primitives to Modern Art

III. Discoveries in the East

Conclusion: Is Naive Art Really Naive?




I. Birth of Naive Art

When Was Naive Art Born?


There are two possible ways of defining when naive art originated. One is to reckon that it happened when naive art was first accepted as an artistic mode of status equal with every other artistic mode. That would date its birth to the first years of the twentieth century. The other is to apprehend naive art a.s 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 naive - 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. If we accept this second definition, we are inevitably confronted with the very intriguing question, so who was that first naive 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 flattish rock surface the contours of a deer or a goat in the act of running away. 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; perhaps it was meant as a divine symbol, a charm intended to bring success in the hunt. Whatever - but from the point of view of an art historian, such an artistic form of expression testifies at the very least to the awakening of individual creative energy and the need, after its accumulation through the process of encounters with the lore of nature, to find an outlet for it.

This first-ever artist really did exist. He must have existed. And he must therefore have been truly 'naive' 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. 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 coloration - all these surely reveal the brilliant craftsmanship of the professional artist. So what about the 'naive' 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 well ignored.

Anonymous, Antelopes and Men, Kamberg region, Africa.

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. What chance was there, then, for some lesser mortal of the Athens of the fifth century B. C. E. who tried to paint a picture, that he might still be remembered today when most of the ancient frescos have not survived and time has not preserved for us the easel-paintings of those legendary masters whose names have been immortalised through the written word. 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 civilisation adrift in a veritable sea of 'savage' peoples: that of the Greeks. 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 as barbarian 'primitive' art and its sculptors as 'naive' artists oblivious to the laws of harmony.

Aristide Caillaud, The Mad Man, 1942

Masculine Idol, 3000-2000 B.CE.


As early as during the third century B.C. E. the influence of the 'barbarians' began to penetrate into Roman art, which at that time was largely derivative of Greek models. The Romans believed not only that they were the only truly civilised 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. The result was ironically that the 'correct' classical art lacked that very impressiveness that was characteristic of the years before in the third century B.C. E.

Having overthrown Rome's domination of most of Europe, the 'barbarians' dispensed with the classical system of art. It was as if the 'canon' so notably realised 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. 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.

Anonymous, Saint Georges Straking Down the Dragon

'Naive' 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 naive artists themselves seem to have attracted rather less attention than those people responsible for 'discovering' them or publicising them. Yet that is not unusual. After all, the naive 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 avant-garde movement had for their work - avant-garde artists whose own work has now, 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, Andre Bauchant or Louis Vivin without reference at the same time to the ideas and styles of such recognised masters as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Joan Miro, Max Ernst and Mikhail Larionov.

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 naive artists poses so many questions of this kind that experts will undoubtedly still be trying to unravel the answers for a good time yet. The main necessity is to establish for each of the naive 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 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 naive artists are coming to light, some of them from the early days of naive art, some of them relatively contemporary. Their art may add to our understanding of the phenomenon of naive art or may change it altogether. For this reason alone it would simply not be feasible to come to an appreciation of naive art that was tightly-defined, complete and static.

Seraphine Louis, The Cherries Flowers

Seraphine Louis, The Cherries Flowers


In this study, therefore, we will contemplate only those outstanding - yet outstandingly diverse - examples of naive 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.

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. It is for this reason that genuine scholars of naive 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. 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". 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 naive artists worldwide. In incorporating such a massive diversity of dements, the term has thus taken on a broadness that renders it, as a definition, all  indefinite. The description 'primitive' is simply no longer precise enough to apply to the works of untaught artists.

Henri Rousseau, War, 1894

Henri Rousseau, The Sleeping Gipsy, 1897

The word 'naive', which implies naturalness, innocence, unaffected ness, 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 naive to consider this painting naive."

Many other descriptive expressions have been suggested to fill the gap. Wilhelm Uhde called the 1928 exhibition in Paris Les Artists du Sacre-Coeur, apparently intending to emphasise 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. Vet 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'.
Of all the various terms on offer, it was naive 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 naive artists that seems appropriate in the description. 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 'naive artist' does bring to mind an image of the artist as a very human sort of person.

Every student of art feels a natural compulsion to try to classify the naive artists, to categorise them on the basis of some feature or features they have in common. The trouble with this is that the naive artists - as noted above - belong to no specific school of art and work to no specific system of expression. Which is precisely why professional artists are so attracted to their work. Summing up his long lite, Maurice de Vlaminck wrote: "I seem initially to have followed Fauvism, and then to have followed in Cezanne's footsteps. Whatever - I do not mind. . . as long as first of all I remained Vlaminck."

Naive 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. And this similarity primarily stems from the instinctual nature of their creative process. But this apart, almost all naive 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 naive artists to date has been folk art.

Paul Gauguin, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?

Modern Art in Quest of New Material

The rebellion of Romanticism against classicism, and the resultant general enthusiasm for artworks that broke the classical mould, set the scene for the events that took place on the threshold between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Classical painting styles became obsolete: even its die-hard champions realised that classicism was in crisis. Historical and genre painting as featured in the Paris salons had taken to treating Leonardo's dictum that 'art should be a mirror-image of reality' as an excuse for mere vulgarity in a way that the great Italian master had certainly never envisaged. Admiration for the ancient world had turned from slavish devotion to the works of Plutarch to the prurient sentimentality embodied in such works as Jean-Leon Gerome's The Auction of a Female Slave. Similarly, the burgeoning interest in the attractions of the mysterious East had resulted in no more than a host of portrayals of nude beauties in tile-lined pools.

At the same time, the quest for natural depiction, for reality of presentation, had stimulated the development of photography - which at one stage was a bitter rival of painting. After all, Andre Malraux quite rightly said that the one and only preoccupation of photography should be to imitate art. In an endeavour somehow to outdo photography on its own terms, painters resorted to copying three-dimensional nature in minutely refined detail, using myriad brushstrokes. This was in itself nothing less than an acknowledgement of painting's incapacity and defeat. And such was the end of the Academy's domination, which had lasted since the seventeenth century. The most liberated of the artists of the Romantic era no longer bothered much with reality of presentation: photography, by reproducing reality as an instant of three-dimensional history caught forever, caused the final departure from it.

Horace Pippin, Sunday Morning Breakfast, 1943

Emma Stern, Self-Portrait, 1964

Sava Sekulic, Portrait of a Man with Moustache

Marie Laurencin, The Italian, 1925

The famous words of Maurice Denis, written when he was only twenty years old in 1890, take on a special significance in this respect. 'Remember that a picture - before becoming a war-horse or a nude woman or a scene from a story - is essentially a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a particular order.' It was the masters of the very early Renaissance years, already known customarily as 'primitives' in nineteenth-century Europe, whose work could be used to provide guidance in understanding the role of the flat surface as the basis for colour. And this heritage had the potential to lead to that new Renaissance which the future Impressionists dreamt of in their youth.

What the noted German philosopher Oswald Spengler called Der Untergang des Abendlandes, 'the decline of the West' (which was the title of his book), was also a powerful factor that increased the divide between artists who chose to look hack to the system of the classical ancients and artists who had no truck with such criteria. Political Eurocentrism collapsed under the pressure of a complex multitude of pressures, and did so at precisely this time - the threshold between the two centuries. Yet by then European artists had already for some time been on the look-out to learn new things from other parts of the world. So, for instance, in their research into the 'mysterious East', the Romantic youth of the I890s were also examining Japanese and Chinese art as part of a search for different approaches to the 'flat surface' about which Maurice Denis had written. Closer to home, Islamic art - 'primitive' in the most accomplished sense of the word rose to considerable popularity during the first decade of the twentieth century, which increased follow ing large exhibitions in Paris and in Germany.

The biggest boost to the new form of Romantic art came in the form of a massive influx of works from the 'primitive' world - .some from Central and South America, but most from Africa - that poured into Europe at the turn of the twentieth century, chiefly through colonial agents. Until this time, the only conceivable description of works of art from these areas was as 'primitive'. The marvellous gold artefacts fashioned by native Peruvians and Mexicans, which flooded Europe following the discovery and colonisation of their lands, were regarded simply as precious metal to be melted down and reworked. Museums did keep and display items from Africa and the Pacific, but little interest was shown in obtaining them.

Paul Gauguin, Eiaha Ohipa, 1896

However, by the end of the nineteenth century, the territories of the world open to European exploration and trade had expanded so dramatically that far-off countries became objects not only of curiosity but also of study. A new science - anthropology - was born. In 1882 an anthropological museum opened in Paris. An Exhibition of Central America took place in Madrid in 1893. And in 1898 the French discovered a rich source of tribal art in their West African colony of Benin (called Dahomey from 1899 to 1975).

So it was that although the first Exhibition of African Art was mounted in Paris only in 1919, young artists had by then already been familiar with African artefacts for quite a while. According to one art-dealer, some of the Parisian artists had fair-sized personal collections from black Africa and Oceania. It is more than possible that the German Expressionist painter Karl Schmidt-Rottluff developed an interest in collecting such items even earlier. His fellow Expressionist Ernst Kirchner claimed that he had 'discovered' black African sculpture back in 1904, in the anthropological museum.

Ivan Vecenaj, Dinner of the Night

Janko Brasic, Dance in Circle next to the Church

One event in particular marked a significant stage in the interface between European and African art, in that it presaged the rejuvenation of the former by the latter. The story was later narrated by the artist Maurice de Vlaminck and his friends.
Vlaminck was travelling back from doing some sketches up in Argenteuil, to the north-west of Paris, when he decided to stop at a bistro. There, he was surprised to espy - between the racked bottles of Pernod - wooden statuettes and masks, all of which had been brought from Africa by the bistro-proprietor's son. Vlaminck purchased the lot there and then. Once he had got home he showed them to his studio-companion Andre Derain, who was so impressed that in turn he persuaded his friend to sell them all on to him. Presumably Derain next took them over to Matisse's studio to show him and the same thing happened yet again, because Picasso was amazed to be shown them when he was invited to dinner specially by Matisse. The story was concluded by Max Jacob, who recounted how he discovered Picasso the next morning poring over a stack of sketch-papers, on each one of which was an increasingly simplified head of a woman.

Vlaminck perceived what was the most valuable point of things 'primitive'. 'Black African art manages by the simplest of means to convey an impression of stateliness but also stillness.'' Nonetheless, having passed through the hands of Vlaminck, Derain and Matisse -all of them great artists - African sculpture directly affected only Pablo Picasso. Vlaminck dated this story to 1905, although most likely it actually happened a bit later. In any case, all the artists involved were by then in a mood to accept primitive art as a complete and entire phenomenon, not simply as a mass of individual and multifarious items.Most significantly, Picasso gradually worked out how to reveal the primal nature of objects thanks to the expressivity of African sculpture. It was this discovery that provided the impetus for him to go on to develop Cubism.
However primitive the sense of form presented by black African sculpture might seem to the European eye, it represented an aesthetic school that was centuries old and a tradition of craftsmanship inherited from remote ancestors. That a system exists means that it is possible to study it, to learn from it and to work to it. This is why the influence of African carving on European art has been so marked during the twentieth century.

Today, then, the art courses of many educational establishments focus on the interrelationship between twentieth-century painting and black African art, together with the influence of the art forms of native North America, Oceania and Arabic/Islamic Africa on European and North American artists from Gauguin up to the Surrealists. As art expert Jean Laude has said, the 'discovery' of black African art by Europeans 'seems to be an integral part of the general process of renewing sources; it is certainly a contributory factor'.'' It was at the peak of this wave of enthusiasm, at the very moment of 'the decline of the West', that the naive artists emerged. There was no need to go searching for them in Africa or in Oceania.

John Bensted, The Rousseau Banquet

Discovery - the Banquet in Rousseau's Honour

Impressionism actually had more of an effect upon art in general than it initially seemed to. The rebellion against the 'tyranny' of the old and traditional system of Classicism that it fomented - the establishing of the principle of freedom in content, form, style and context led to a broadening of the whole concept of 'art' itself.
Towards the end of the Impressionist 'period' - so much so that they are forever labelled Post-Impressionist - Paul Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh joined the Impressionists' ranks. What they lacked in training they made up for in hard work. Indeed, only in the very early pictures of Gauguin is any deficiency of skill evident. And when Van Gogh arrived in Paris in 1886, no one expressed any doubts as to his worthiness to take his place among the international clique of artists in the community in Montmartre which by that time had existed there for nigh on a century. Perhaps inevitably, the pair did not, however, find acceptance in the salon dedicated to the most classical forms of contemporary art. They were nonetheless able to exhibit their works to the public, especially since Parisian art-dealers marchands - were opening more and more galleries. In 1884 the Salon des independants was launched. This had no selection committee and was set up specifically to put on show the works of those artists who painted for a living but were yet unable or unwilling to meet the requirements of the official salons. Of course there were many such artists - and of course among the overwhelming multiplicity of their mostly talentless works it was not always easy to identify those pictures that were exceptional in merit.
Henri Rousseau served as a customs officer at the Gate of Vanves in Paris. In his free time he painted, sometimes on commission for his neighbours and sometimes in exchange for food. Year after year from 1886 to 1910 he brought his work to the Salon des independants for display, and year after year his work was exhibited with everybody else's despite its total lack of professional worth. Nevertheless he was proud to be numbered among the city's artists, and thoroughly enjoyed the right they all had to see their works shown to the public like the more accepted artists in the better salons.

Henri Rousseau was among the first in his generation to perceive the dawn of a new era in art in which it was possible to grasp the notion of freedom - freedom to aspire to be described as an artist irrespective of a specific style of painting or the possession or lack of professional qualifications. His famous picture (now in the National Gallery, Prague), dated 18.90 and entitled Myself, Portrait-Landscape, rather than the comparatively feeble self-portrait, reflected that selfsame ebullient self-confidence that was a characteristic of his, and established the image of the amateur artist taking his place in the ranks of the professionals. "His most characteristic feature is that he sports a bushy beard and has for some considerable time remained a member of the Society of the Independents in the belief that a creative personality whose ideas soar high above the rest should be granted the right to equally unlimited freedom of self-expression", was what Rousseau wrote about himself in his autobiographical notes.

Henri Rousseau, Myself, , Portrait-Landscape, 1890 

It just so happened that Pablo Picasso visited a M. Soulier's bric-a-brac shop in the Rue des Martyrs on a fairly regular basis: sometimes he managed to sell one of his pictures to M. Soulier. On one such occasion Picasso noticed a strange painting. It could have been mistaken for a pastiche on the type of ceremonial portraits produced by James Tissot or Charles-Emile-Auguste (Carolus-Duran) had it not been for its extraordinary air of seriousness. The face of a rather unattractive woman w as depicted with unusually precise detail given to its individual features, yet with a sense of profound respect for the sitter. Somehow the female figure - clothed in an austere costume involving complex folds and creases and surrounded by an amazing panoply of pansies in pots on a balcony, observing a prominent bird flying across a clouded sky, and holding a large twig in one hand - looked for all the world like a photographer's model as posed by an amateur photographer, but still was hauntinglv realistic and arresting. The artist was
Henri Rousseau. The price was five francs. Picasso bought it and hung it in his studio.

In point of fact, it was not only Picasso who was interested in Rousseau's work at this time. The art-dealer Ambroise Vollard had already purchased some of Rousseau's paintings, and the young artists Sonja and Robert Delaunay were friends of his, as was Wilhelm Uhde, the German art critic who organised Rousseau's first solo exhibition in 1908 (on the premises of a Parisian furniture-dealer). But it was Picasso who, with his friends, decided in that same year to hold a party in Rousseau's honour. It took place in Picasso's studio in the Rue Ravignan at a house called the Bateau-Lavoir. Some thirty people turned up, many of them naturally Picasso's friends and neighbours, but others present included the critic Maurice Raynal and the Americans Leo and Gertrude Stein.

Decades later, during the 1960s, by which time the 'Rousseau banquet' had become something of a legend in itself, one of the guests - the naive artist Manuel Blasco Alarcon, who was Picasso's cousin - painted a picture of the event from memory. Henri Rousseau was depicted standing on a podium in front of one of his own works, and holding a violin. Seated around a table meanwhile were various guests whom Alarcon portrayed in the style of Picasso's Gertrude Stein and Henri Rousseau's Apollinaire and Marie Laurencin.

Ivan Rabuzin, Klower on the Hill, 1988

Elena A. Volkova, Young Girl from Sibera

At the banquet all those years previously, the elderly ex-Douanier Rousseau (then aged sixty-four, having retired from his customs post at the age of forty-one in order to concentrate on art) found himself surrounded mainly by vivacious young people intent on having a good time but in a cultural sort of way. Poems were being recited even as supper was being eaten. There was dancing to the music of George Braque on the accordian and Rousseau on the violin - in fact, Rousseau played a waltz, that he had composed himself' The party was .still going strong at dawn the next day when Rousseau, emotional and more than half-asleep, was finally put into a fiacre to take him home. (When he got out of the fiacre, he left in it all the copies of the poems written for him by Apollinaire and given to him solicitously as a celebratory present.) Even after he had departed, the young people carried straight on with the revels. Only later in the memories of the people who had been there did this 'banquet' stand out in their minds as a truly remarkable occasion. Only then did individual anecdotes about what happened there take on the aspect of the mythical and the magical. Quite a few were to remember a drunken Marie Laurencin falling over on to a selection of scones and pastries. Others indelibly recalled Rousseau's declaration to Picasso that "We two are the greatest artists of our time - you in the Egyptian genre and me in the modern!"

This statement, arrogant as it might have seemed at the time to those who heard it, was by no mleans as ridiculous as some of those present might have supposed. As the story of the 'Rousseau banquet' spread around the city of Paris and beyond, the people who had been there began in their minds to edit what they had seen and heard in order to present their own versions when asked. Six years later, in 1914, Maurice Raynal narrated his recollections of it in Apollinaire's magazine Soirres de Paris. Later still, Fernanda Olivier and Gertrude Stein wrote it up in their respective memoirs. In his Souvenirs sans fin, Andre Salmon went to considerable pains to point out that the 'banquet' was in no way intended as a practical joke at Rousseau's expense, and that - despite suggestions to the contrary - the party was meant utterly sincerely as a celebration of Rousseau's art. Why else, he insisted, would intellectuals like Picasso, Apollinaire and he himself, Andre Salmon, have gone to the trouble of setting up the banquet in the first place? This was too much for the French artist and sculptor Andre Derain who publicly riposted to Salmon, "What is this.' A victory for con-artistry?" Later, he was sorry for his outburst, particularly in view of the tact that he rather admired Rousseau's work, and only quarrelled with Maurice de Vlaminck, one of his best friends, when Vlaminck was unwise enough to suggest in an interview with a journalist that Derain was dismissive of Rousseau's work.

Only a few years later, and there was actually a squabble about who had 'discovered' Rousseau. The critic Gustavo Coquiot in a book entitled  Independants expressed his exasperation at hearing people say that it had been Wilhelm Uhde who had introduced Rousseau and his work to the world. How was it, he asked indignantly, that some German fellow could claim in 1908 to present for the first time to the Parisian public a Parisian artist whose work had been on show in Paris to those who wanted to see it ever since 1885 or earlier?

Writing enthusiastically about Rousseau's paintings, and praising his unique style, Coquiot went on to make an interesting comment. "There must he many an amateur artist in France Sunday painters who for the rest of the week may be working men, tradesmen or businessmen. I once gave the artist Vlaminek a painting called Dance of the Bayadere, produced by a wine merchant from Narbonne. It was a rather pretentious canvas in the style of Rousseau. But the point is that on another occasion the same merchant painted a picture he called Place de I'Opera which did indeed show the Opera in all its intricate detail. Now that is surely amazing!" n
These words of Coquiot mark a new- line in the spectrum that is the history of naive art. Discussion and appreciation of Rousseau's works inevitably led to discussion and (sometimes) appreciation of the works of others in similar vein. Accordingly, some perhaps not so talented but undoubtedly original artists were noticed and even encouraged to come forward. A chain of 'discoveries' ensued. 'Primitive1 and 'naive' art was suddenly all around - to the extent that professional artists were becoming heavily involved.

Mihai Dascalu, The Broken Bridge

Mihai Dascalu, Close to the Wind mill


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