The Naive – also called naive art, the art of the naives, primitive art, the art of the modern primitives and so on – is a distinct segment of the art of the 20th century. It is comprehends a discrete group of painters and sculptors untrained in the ways of art, among the limitless number of kinds of expressions and trends in modern art. The Naives are always distinguished from other self-taught, amateur, popular and vernacular artists by their identifiable artistic style and poetical singularity; by, then, their sheer artistic excellence. The Naive is a concept – just like the concepts of Expressionism, Cubism, Abstractionism, Dadaism and the Surreal and so on – that we use to interrelate some of the separate worlds of modern artistic creativity.

 
The concept of the Naive has been accepted as a necessary convention for want of a more appropriate definition. Today a large number of artists and works from very diverse localities and cultures, heterogeneous topics, stylistic and morphological, craft and poetic features are brought together under this name. In spite of its lack of appropriateness, the name is nevertheless today so widespread and so well accepted, in all its various forms, that it would be improper to change it. Apart from that, every other name would be condemned to failure as well, because it too would be incapable of summing up the artistic phenomenon concerned in all its complexity. The Naive, that is, is not a rigidly defined artistic movement or group of artists or set of works with corresponding forms, a single style, topic or poetics; rather, it is composed of an abundance of the most diverse individual creations and it is for this reason that no simple definition can comprehend it. In Croatia it was at first to do with the works of peasants and working men, of artisans and shopkeepers, clerks and pensioners, ordinary men and women from the people, hence the name popular art, but the most successful creative figures became, over the course of time, professional artists, which is without doubt a very individual trait of the Croatian Naive.

 

Primitiveness and naivety are not coexistent with the Naive as artistic phenomenon. The maladroitness of some of the artists of the 18th and 19th centuries, the various works of anonymous painters of the post-Baroque "hinterglasmalerei" in Croatia, the votive pictures, the dilettante and provincial forms (most often in Biedermeier pictures) can without doubt be called naive, in the full and true sense of the word, but they do not belong to the Naive in the sense in which it is a distinct segment of artistic creativity, because there is in all this no personal stylistic coherence or any level of art.


 
In Croatia the concept of the Naive assumes the work of artists who arrived from amateurism, people who are more or less self-taught, painters and sculptors who did not obtain their education by systematic training at art schools and academies, which did not, however, prevent them from creating their own style, achieving their own level of art. An identifiably individual style and an individual poetics that is always there pick the Naive out quite clearly from the various examples of amateurism and dilettantism, from "Sunday" and "vernacular" painters and sculptors, and from all the rest of the undifferentiated mass of the self-taught. Since the artists of the Naive do not know how to construct a work according to the lessons of the academies, there are always certain departures in their works in proportions and perspective, and numerous "illogicalities in form and space. A positive evaluation of such characteristics, as the expression of the free creative imagination, could come into being only after Symbolism, Expressionism, Cubism, Surrealism and the other movements and phenomena of the Modern Movement had already been experienced. This clearly shows that the Naive is also a 20th century form of expression and is in key with the modern sensibility.

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The Naive is the consequence and proof of democratisation in both the general relations in society and in artistic creation. It clearly shows that everyone has the right to express himself or herself in art and that schools of art are in themselves no guarantee of artistic value, because art can be created even without them. In the Naive, emotion counts more than reason and intellectual speculations. In the majority of cases, the Naive expresses the joy of life and the victory of hope. Here we can discover "the forgotten nature" and "lost childhood", stories and dreams, a vital imagination and simple human inventions, the forgotten "wonder at the world" and the ability to rejoice in motif. But the Naive is not just an Arcadian art and idyll, it does not express only trust in and celebration of life; there are some sorry tales in it too, some dark and chthonic accords; in the Naive we can also come across the tragic and the symbolic, the fantastic and the irreal, surreal relationships, somnambulism and unreality, which all means that it is made up of a hundred opposites, just like Life.