primitivism, in art, the style of works of self-trained artists who develop their talents in a fanciful and fresh manner, as in the paintings of Henri Rousseau and Grandma Moses. The term primitive has also been used to describe the style of early American naive painters such as Edward Hicks and has been applied to the art of the various Italian and Netherlandish schools produced prior to c.1450. More recently the term has included modern artists who research the past as well as cultures foreign to their own, such as Robert Smithson and Joseph Beuys.
See W. Rubin, ed., Primitivism in 20th-Century Art (1988).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.