About Naïve Art

AnatoleJakovsky
AnatoleJakovsky
One of the foremost patrons of naïve art and the founder of the Musée International d'Art Naïf Anatole Jakovsky, Nice, France.
Introduction to Naïve Art by Anatole Jakovsky:

"If we want to approach the subject of naïve painting with any degree of honesty, then we shall have to concede that nothing of what we know about the genesis of art in terms of the origins of an artistic movement can be likened to the adventure of naïve painting. for this reason, the present and rather recent popularity of naïve painting appears to puzzle and confuse people, dividing the worked into supporters and detractors.

Very little of what has been written on the subject makes much sense; in fact, quite the reverse. Ill-judged comparisons of naïve painting with drawings done by children or the mentally ill, with cave drawings, negro art or votive pictures, in short, with most forms of folk art, only contribute towards sustaining this confusion."
What is a Naïve Painter?:

"A definition, admittedly, is not easy. While their work shows certain common features, there are other characteristics which are at variance with one another. some elements seem to project beyond the purely naïve, carrying the naïve painter into the realm of high art. Thus the dividing line, though flexible, remains vague.

But one may legitimately ask, surely other artists and artistic movements confront us with similar difficulties? Where does Impressionism end and Expressionism begin? Is it possible to draw a clear distinction between Analytical Cubisma and Synthetic Cubism? The validity of such terms is not in question, buy the problem remains.

Naïve painting cannot escape this difficulty. Bearing this in mind, we should approach the subject with due caution and avoid making snap judgments. Nevertheless, the following facts may serve as a useful start towards a definition of naïve painting:

1) A naïve painter is untutored and has invented his own expressive and stylistic alphabet entirely unaided. This does not, of course, imply that conversely a 'trained' painter can never be a Naïve. There are "professional' painters amongst the Naïves , such as Marc Chagall, as well as bad painters, those who paint in a pseudonaïve manner. the French refer to this latter category simply as "pompiers". As can be appreciated, this fundamental difference separates the naïve painters from all the representatives of folk art, even if only because the latter work according to certain rules and patterns which have been passed down through the centuries from one generation to another, usually from father to son.

2) Every truly naïve painter has his own vision of the world which, in some mysterious way, is uniquely different from that of any other. What do Ropusseau and Séraphine, Adalbert Trillhaase and O'Brady, Morais and Lüthi have in common? This is why naïve art is not something that can be taught, and any attempt to imitate it will be as spurious a copy of an abstract picture by Kandinsky. For the same reason, there can never be a School of Naïve Painting, which means that the famous 'École de Hlebine' is a contradiction in terms.

The individual vision of every naïve painter arises from a condition of the soul, which is particularly unique and commanding. this vision, like every artistic concept, merges with a necessity to express itself, a necessity much stronger than the artist himself. He succumbs to this necessity and is forced to realize his vision at all costs. One is reminded of what 'le Douanier' Rousseau said; "It is not I that am drawing, it is this thing at the end of my hand." the conclusion to be drawn from this is that the naïve painter is akin to a person possessed. He is in the grip of a 'thing', the nature of which he cannot logically understand.

3) Finally, what is of cardinal importance is that the naïve painter should be blessed with the gift of talent, and not paint merely for the fun of it or to pass the time, as a kind of weekend hobby. Otherwise, he will be no different from any number of charlatans and bunglers who try their hand at painting. Thus naïve painting, in comparison with what might be called main stream painting, is not to be seen in terms of its 'importance' but in terms of its visionary quality. Naïve pictures exhibiting no real qualities, or which draw upon the tradition of art of all ages, styles and schools, can, at best, remain curiosities. They represent forms of expression on a level with so many others which are prone to crude utterances of joy or the cries of sick, mutilated and mortally wounded souls. As such they belong to 'art brut' where, strictly speaking, it has become unnecessary to insist upon the word 'art'. Alternatively, naïve pictures are like trifles produced by children playing with form and colors as they would with dolls and toy bricks. Of course, this does not mean that one should equate naïve painting with paintings done by children.

4) Not everyone who wants to be can be a naïve painter, a truism worth repeating yet again.

What long ago was seen as clumsy, awkward and lacking any painterly skills nevertheless demonstrates an arrangement as orderly and coherent as that of any other kind of painting. Its rhythms are consistent, its colors harmonize - only differently, that is all. The archaic, old-fashioned look of naïve painting doubtless goes back to the archetypes discovered by the famous Zurich psychoanalyst Carl Jung; one might say that naïve painters have certain pictorial ideas circulating in their subconscious which, quite spontaneously, demand to be given release. Their pictures seem to begin like an old fairy tale, "Once upon a time...".

Thus naïve painting is neither of yesterday nor of today, but timeless. Perhaps of tomorrow, who knows. One might put it apply by saying that the Naïves are for ever in search of a 'paradise lost' and that their painting are a transfiguration of all those things life has robbed and cheated them of, a creation of 'paradise regained'.

5) Even if, in essence, all naïve painting is the same, the roads leading there are very diverse. Certain quite distinct things have to happen to give these pictures their particular and recognizable quality.

The effect of the climate and soil, the degree of familiarity with the technicalities of painting, the presence or absence of an old folk culture together with certain intangible elements, the air, the time, mysterious feeling for color, all these combine to make an indelible impression upon the artist. Consequently French naïve painters are different from those in America, and those in America differ from those in Germany. The differences are as easy to spot as those that exist between the popular art of central Europe and that of south America."
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A Little About Anatole Jakovsky:
Founder of the Musée International d'Art Naïf Anatole Jakovsky, in Nice, France.


Atole Jakovsky was born on August 13, 1909 in Kichineff close to Odessa. It was still a city of old Russia before it became Rumanian after the war.

In 1932, Anatole Jakovsky moved to Paris. He met the secretary of Prokofiev who introduced him amongst the artistic colony of Montparnasse. There he developed a binding friendship with Jean Hélion and mingles with the abstract artists who revolve around Michel Seuphor and Torrès Garcia.

Soon Anatole Jakovsky became an art critic focusing on the abstract painters and in particular the the Abstraction "movement - Creation " of Jean Herbin of whom he wrote the first monograph. His first papers are devoted to Calder, Arp, Delaunay, Hélion, Mondrian, Nicholson, Pevsner, Seligmann, Villon, Vulliamy, Braque, Picasso, Zadkine… All of whom become friends.

Healso maintains a very close relationship with Robert Delaunay. Together, in 1939, they create "The Keys of the Paving Stones " the first plastic book. It is a collection of poems signed "Anatole Delagrave", illustrated by Robert Delaunay of plates of rhodoïde fluorescent. It is the first and last time that Anatole Jakovsky had recourse to a pseudonym. The work was drawn with 100 plates which are on show at the Musée International d'Art Naïf Anatole Jakovsky.

Following a series of events, Anatole Jakovsky decided to seek out other activities. In the process of exploring various avenues of interest, he met the naïve painter Jean Fous. There, in 1942, while helping him unpack books and various objects, he discovered canvases in a portfolio case of a Rousseau Customs officer which caught his interest.

From that moment on, Anatole Jakovsky officially devoted himself to defend, promote and collect naïve painting.

In 1949, he made his first appearance with the Editions J Damase in Paris, his first significant work on this artistic expression: "Naive painting "

He did not cease writing forewords, monographs, critical pieces as well as organizeing international exhibitions of Naïve art, gathering little by little the most significant collection of naïve paintings which he eventually donated with all his files to the town of Nice in 1978.

Four years later, the Museum of the Castle of Sainte-Hélène bearing her name, preserved 600 canvases and drawings, sculptures, paintings under glass recalling the complete history of the Naïve art from the world of 17th century to today.

His files have been integrated into the museum archives which holds exceptional documents legitimating the existence of this art among the first steps of all autonomous creations of the 20th century.

Parrallel with his interest for naïve painting, Anatole Jakovsky, eclectic visionary as much as alchemist of art, developed an interest in Gasto Chaissac of whom he wrote the first biography, Alphonse Allais that he discovered, the history of the tobacco, the collections of pipes which it compared with Marcel Duchamp, old robots, old postcards, the history of the Eiffel Tower, the Palate of the Factor Horse and the Rocks of Rotheneuf, art populaire…

Atole Jakovsky was a man in constant quest of discovery. He knew how to anticipate the taste of his contemporaries. He foresaw man on the moon and predicted WWII war as early as 1935.

His eclecticism, his perspicacity, his pugnacity and stubborness allowed us all to discover a whole new art culture.


Iconography: Copyright © 2000 Musée International d'Art Naïf Anatole Jakovsky.
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Artist's Thank You:
Jakovsky & Patricia Barton Patricia Barton writes that she want to take this opportunity to publically express her thanks posthumously to her mentor and greatest promoter Anatol Jakovsky for all the help, encouragement and support both for her work and in keeping her on the path that has brought her so much pleasure, recognition and satisfaction.

"My dear friend Anatole always said 'A naïve painter always has a little blue flower in their hearts'".

Photo left. Mr. Anatol Jakovsky to the left and Patricia Barton to the right in in November,1970 at the opening of her one woman exhibition in Paris.
Links to Other Naïve Artists
Patricia Barton is one of the leading Naive Artists in the world. But to fully appreciate her work and the work of other fine naive artists, it is helpful to view as wide a field of these works as possible, for the range of styles and subject matter is enormous. With that in mind, we have some links for you to explore. Below is a link to a very active naive site called Dutch naive Painters. They have an excellent link page filled with links to other naive painters world wide.

Musee International d'Art Naif Welcome to the official site of the International Naïve Art Museum of Vicq, near Paris. About 900 naïve works, drawn from the Max Fourny Collection: naïve painters and sculptors, from more than 40 countries around the world.
Welcome on the site of the living Dutch naive painters.
GALERY MAURICE - Online gallery of Adrie and Jan Maurice that shows their work and links to many other naif painters and galleries.

Links to Naive painters from all over the world. Click Here
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