When we think of art, we may immediately think of paintings, sculptures and buildings created by Renaissance masters. At that time, these iconic works were respected and loved by religions, nobles and ordinary people, which still surprised us in the 21st century.
Or, we will think of some particularly novel, radical and avant-garde works, such as contemporary artists, who create unprecedented images with incomprehensible technology. In the hands of some new media artists, their cutting-edge technology and expression language are awesome.
However, it must be said that Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Michelangelo’s David and Van Gogh’s The Rye and the Crow are just a few important works in the long classics of art history. However, there are many other creators in human history. Some people don’t even call themselves artists, but they are also creating and expressing their works, and sometimes they even get eye-catching masterpieces.
Although many of these people have never entered an art school, received art education or held exhibitions, they have chosen an art media in many occupations, cultivated and developed their own perception and style in their own study, and finally achieved success. Among these people, some people’s talents exceed those cultivated in the traditional art education system. They collect nutrition in the field of life and produce beautiful flowers. These people, known as “folk artists”, show the spiritual masterpieces created by outsiders.
At the beginning of the 20th century, a group of young and important American modernists began to pay attention to the types of folk art. They brought the frank and abstract form of early American folk art and their love for color into the scope of research and investigation, and found something worth learning by modernist artists, which is equivalent to the new anti-traditional spirit they learned and felt in the European continent and the new experiment they created in the United States. Combine local culture and primitive power to explore new modernist art.
In the early study of folk art, American modernist artists traced back to the mainstream characteristics of these artistic creations, and sought inspiration from folk art in the form of landscapes, portraits, fabrics, utensils, maps and geographical paintings, and started an artistic journey of reviewing nature and returning to the original intention.
Holger Cahill planned a landmark art exhibition entitled American Folk Art: Art of the Common Man in America (1750-1900) in 1932. In MoMA’s exhibition, Cahill focused on the era of “pre-industrialization” and showed the unconventional aspects of American tradition.
In terms of art, the paintings and sculptures in the exhibition are the works of art lovers and craftsmen in the 18th and 19th centuries. These creators are house painters, trademark painters, portrait painters, carpenters, cabinet manufacturers, shipbuilders, metal smelters, blacksmiths, and even sailors, farmers, businessmen, housewives and girls in boarding schools. These people have no artistic training, but they all know how to coordinate their hands and eyes and then create beautiful activities. Cahill said that before the big machine era, “people can show simple and unaffected childlike interest. These men and women have little or no training in art schools, and no one even knows that they are engaged in artistic creation.
In the 1940s, Jean Lipman, an art critic and collector, pointed out that folk art was the product of great democracy. It is spontaneous, natural, non-derivative and non-academic. Thirty years later, Herbert Wai de Hampshire, Jr. and Julia Weissman, together in their book American Folk Art and Artists in the 20th Century, extended this scope to world artists and asserted that “the vision of folk artists is private, and it is a display of personal world, and it is a world created by one person.
Nowadays, folk art has been widely recognized. From painting to sculpture, from exquisite decoration to large buildings, as a broad artistic term, it describes the creation of various media and technologies. These works have clear characteristics, that is, they are not based on any traditional schools and styles in the history of art (such as futurism, cubism, surrealism or arts and crafts movement), nor are they influenced by academic circles, nor will they respond to popular philosophical and cultural criticisms at that time. On the one hand, folk art is usually rooted in the tradition of community or group culture. The aesthetic value of one or more works is usually used to express the identity consciousness from these places, mostly group identification, not just the creator’s own personal identity, which is very different from strange contemporary art.
Stephanie Knappe, curator of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, explained: “Many folk art works came from before the rise of the middle class and were not affected by mechanized production. In the period of great changes, folk artists often continue to trace back and inherit the cultural traditions of their regions. Find a stable and peaceful living atmosphere in the works and maintain the vitality of past civilization.
However, this does not mean that all folk artists are conservative and work according to the rules. Some talented creators will feel the pain and joy in life, and regard art as an unparalleled expression, and express their central feelings and feelings in other ways. Because of this, folk art is very open in appearance, promoting its own personality and expressing its own views. Therefore, it is difficult to find a group of folk artists doing the same thing. They will not form a common theme or style, and it is difficult to be classified into one category. In this case, the most important reason to attract us to watch folk art is to experience and appreciate the free will of this barbaric growth, and let a hundred flowers blossom, each with its own merits.
Watching the works of a group of famous folk artists will help us to further understand the significance of American folk art. People may not know the names of these artists, but there are often very interesting stories behind their works. For example, the name Leonard Knight is rarely seen, but in the United States, almost no one knows it, and no one knows it. East of the Salton Sea in California, an artificial landscape, Salvation Mountain, made of straw and a lot of paint, attracted thousands of people, even entered advertisements, movies and pop music, and was loved by people.
This mountain full of bright patterns and fairy tales is a work of art completed by Leonard Knight himself. He spent his whole life creating and maintaining it. He expressed infinite praise for faith, love and peace with his immersive visual landscape.
Nate has lived in Save the Mountain for many years. He painted in the mountains during the day, lived behind a truck at night and adopted many stray cats. He is happy and self-sufficient. Knight once said, “If someone gives me $100,000 a week to move to a mansion, I will refuse.”
I think it’s amazing to live here, just like living in a fairy tale world, isn’t it? Like Knight, many folk artists have unified their aesthetic values and living environment through painting, sculpture and sewing. These artists mainly live and work far away from the city center, seeking inspiration from nature and peace. Their works contain elements such as plants, animals, religion and writing, and have a certain spirit of animism. Almost all folk artists like bright colors, extensive and direct paint applications, patterns and patterns on the surface, bright light recombination, exaggerated proportions of things and very eye-catching figures.
For example, Ammi Phillips, born in 1788, was a prolific portrait painter. It is said that in his 50-year creative career, he has created as many as 2,000 paintings, and is regarded as a self-taught master. His famous work “The Girl in Red Holding a Cat and a Dog” is still one of the most popular works in American Folk Art Museum. His paintings are simple in temperament, flat in background and eye-catching in color application.
Up to now, portrait painting is still the most popular and popular art form among folk painters in the United States. These artists often start their careers late, or create in their spare time in other professions to seek some commissions. Although most people have developed unique styles and artistic skills, all their works are different from traditional cultural portraits; The most outstanding performance is: the role image of single and mode.
These portraits have the characteristics of clear shape, neat structure and clear spatial layout. Some have almost mathematical accuracy and symmetry, and the lighting is very uniform. The painter pays the same attention and expression to all areas of the canvas, and the brushwork is very flat. Therefore, the whole painting looks even and rigid, and there are few idle pens with choice and poetry. In terms of flatness and linear description, it reveals the rules and persistence of children’s painting.
In any case, the study of folk portraits is a fresh and striking theory. They are neat, rigorous and meticulous, which matches the creator’s simple temperament, rural life and farming background. There is no fundamental difference between the characters’ postures, decorative props and scene settings in rural portraits and those used by professional artists in cities, but to some extent, professional portraits bear certain European academic practice. In contrast, these folk portraits are unrestricted in all aspects, which are often more in line with the artist’s creative mood and technical requirements.
In traditional portrait art, the pride and class status of the customizer are very important, which is obvious in the element composition of a painting. Important people often wear gorgeous clothes. Fur, velvet, ribbons, pearls and other decorations are not only the artist’s technical display, but also the artist’s identity display. The painting objects of folk artists are often their relatives and friends, or rural customers who make friends according to their own class. As a whole, these creators and the characters described in the portraits are simple and simple. In the noisy upper class, they are often taciturn and very cautious about personality and emotion. Therefore, the characters in folk portraits all show very simple, kind and distant personalities. They are eager to be recorded, leaving beautiful things and moments, and declaring their condescension to be different.
Joseph Akoum, an African-American painter, is also a self-taught landscape painter. In the last ten years of his life, he wrote more than 2,000 poems and began to record his private memories. These landscape paintings are highly artistic, and memories appear in the form of fictional landscapes. The expression of colors and lines in the picture is restrained and affectionate.
He claimed that he had traveled around the world all his life and had done a lot of odd jobs. However, artistic creation is the time for him to really settle down. He did one or two sketches or watercolors every day until he died on Christmas morning in 1972 at the age of 82. Influenced by his life, Akoum’s paintings show the unique landform of his birthplace (Window, Arizona, Navajo reservation near Rock), which is full of imagination in form, as if it were a story from the painter’s heart.
Among all American folk painters, anna marie Mary Robertson should be the most famous one in the world. Her name is also Grandma Moses. At the age of 78, a farmer’s wife began to pick up brushes and began her career as a painter in earnest. Facts have proved that it is never too late to be an artist. Grandma Moses is willing to open a new chapter in his life and try new things when ordinary old people start to support themselves.
Her works are regarded as “simple realism”, which highlights the quiet beauty of rural life. Her career flourished while she was still alive and was highly praised. It was not until she was 101 years old that her paintings were made into decorative greeting cards, calendars, postcards and other commodities, which were exhibited and sold in the United States and abroad.
At first, she charged $3 to $5 per painting, depending on its size; With the improvement of her reputation, her works were later sold for 8,000 to 10,000 dollars. Grandma Moses’s paintings not only entered the art gallery, but also appeared on the cover of magazines. She appeared on TV and documentaries. She even wrote an autobiography in her later years, “My Life History” won numerous awards, and grandma herself won honorary doctorates from two universities.
The New York Times praised Grandma Moses’s paintings and said, “Grandma Moses described simple farm life and simple rural realism. The nostalgic atmosphere and bright colors attracted her extensive attention. She can capture the excitement of the first snow in winter, the preparation for Thanksgiving, and the new green in the coming spring … The place where Grandma Moses has been personally is very charming. This slim and lively woman has naughty gray eyes, wit and sensitivity. Grandma Moses described early scenes of country life, calling them old New England landscapes.
Although she lacks knowledge of the basic painting history or the traditional perspective, Grandma Moses is probably the most personal folk painter. Her rejection of the inherent views made her early paintings more realistic or primitive, full of simple composition. With the development of her career, her mature paintings are ambitious, creating a complex, diverse and panoramic rural life. Her winter paintings even remind people of some works by Pieter brug, a Nederland master, which describe winter scenes, including scenery, geography, rich character stories and amazing picture layout ability.
Her paintings always exude a relaxed and cheerful optimism; The world she showed us is simple, beautiful and desirable. Grandma Moses said that she got inspiration from nature and began to paint, and then “I will forget everything, except the past and how to paint, and all the troubles will disappear. Painting will let people know about our past life. “In art, she deliberately avoided the characteristics of modern life, such as modern agricultural tools and urbanization landscape, but looked for nostalgic scenes in simple countryside and charming