What is Naive Art?


Russian naive art —The Art of outsiders, naive and amateur artists of the USSR and Russia.


The beginning of the XX century

The interest in naive art emerged in Russia in 1913, when the young avant-garde poet Le Dante, the artist Kirill Zdanowicz and his brother Ilia Zhdanevich, discovered works by a Georgian self-taught artist Niko Pirosmanishvili (1862-1918) in Tiflis (Tbilisi).
Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov made the next important step to recognition Naive Art. They became interested in primitive, which, from their point of view, combine Pirosmanashvili canvases with the ancient Scythian stone women, Lubok, and urban signs. They used such a synthetic primitive language in their paintings and legalised it in the art.

Early Soviet period

During the early Soviet period naive art was seen as part of amateur art of the lower social classes which was an important component of the socialist culture. Amateur art was to be showcase the talents of working-class people, which previously couldn’t be revealed because of exploitation. The works of IZORAM members and amateurs were presented on exhibition in Russian Museum in 1925. IZORAM (Mass Organisation of Komsomol Amateurs Art) appeared in 1925 to develop a new, avant-garde language of amateur arts and crafts, as amateurs artists used to imitate academic art in wall painting.
Amateur artists were the embodiment of social ideal which was put forward in the late 1920’s -1930’s. They become those “new people”, whom Soviet government dreamed to create. Such “Factory of the people”, as it was called by it founder, Mikhail Pogrebinsky, was Commune in a purpose-built village near Moscow region Bolshevo, where “new people” were produced from street children and young criminals. Bolshevo became the starting point for many amateur artists.
Another form of amateur art were gifts. For example, embroidered banners, which were presented to Red Army units. Gifts began to address to specific individuals, mostly to the party leaders in the 1930s.
Naive and primitive artists were ignored and viewed as hostile to ideological propaganda in 1940s-1960s. Amateur art, which was no longer actively supported by the government, however, continued to exist. Many artists had not try to imitate a professional artist, but used their own naive and childish style.

Late Soviet and Post-Soviet period

In 1970-1980, curators began to give best places at expositions and serious studies on the issue appeared. Naive art occupied a niche near the Underground art in this period. This closeness was especially clearly expressed in ZNUI (Institute for naive artists) activities, where some representatives of “The Other Art”, М. Roginskij, I, Chuikov, N. Kasatkin, worked. The part of society that defined itself as opposition to the Soviet regime and was interested in underground art considered naive artist as embodiment of the ideal of disinterested creativity and freedom from ideological cliche.
1970-1990th were the most productive years for naive art in Russia. Conditions of rural life and, specifically, isolation of the Russian villages left self-taught artists face to face with the traditions of folk culture. All the Russian naive artists worked on their own, with no permanent contact with the arts scene in big cities. There was no unified school. Among the most famous were I.E. Selivanov (1907-1988), N.A.Severtseva-Gabrichevskaya (1901-1970), E.A.Volkova (b. 1915), P.P.Leonov (b. in 1920), V.T.Romanenkov (b. 1953), Kate (Katherine) Medvedeva (b. 1937).


Naive Art Museum in Moscow
Collection of naïve and outsider art of Dr. X. Boguemskaia and A.Turchin


Pavel Leonov
Alexandr Lobanov
Vasilij Romanenkov
Alevtina Pyzhova
Alexander Belikh
Katia Medvedeva
Efimija Varfolomeyeva
Vasilij Plastinin
Alexander Suvorov
Vagan Sakian
Vasilij Grigoriev
Mikhail Rzhannikov
Elena Volkova
Vladimir Zaznobin
Tatjana Elenok
Ljubov Maikova
Katujsha (Ekaterina Skvorcova)
Andrej Vavilov
Roza Zharkih
Nikolaj Almazov
Vasilij Shevchenko
Grigorij Kusochkin
Alexej Kondratenko