RG Insights: Naive Art

RG Insights: Naive Art 

This year, our friends at Song for the Mute released a Spring-Summer collection featuring the surrealist artworks of designer, Lyna Ty’s partner, Karim Galoul. Celebrating Naive art and the childlike joy it represents, Galoul created a series of cartoonish sculptures, embroidered patches and print sketches, following the free ethos of expression that made works by Rousseau, Dubuffet and Wallis distinct. Accompanying this release was a puppet campaign featuring 15 distinct sculptures wearing one-of-a-kind outfits, all created by Lyna Ty.

We were all born creative minds, until societal judgement is placed upon us and our imagination is diluted. This creativity is omnipresent, latent, waiting to be embraced again; if we free our minds it could take us to places unknown. - Lyna Ty, Song for the Mute co-founder and designer


A pivotal movement known by many names is still left out of most conversations about art — especially today. Naive art, also known as Raw Art, “Art Brut” in French and Outsider Art are a collection of terms used describe a movement of artists without formal training who developed a distinct style that has become synonymous with free, unadulterated expression.

In its most stripped back form, Naive art diverges from nuanced types of artistic expression in favour of more intimate visual representations. Works are created free of social constraints and conventional rules that typically influence the works of studied artists.

Naive artwork is characterized by the use of vibrant colours and surrealistic scaling; often depicting personal scenes from the artist’s life. The presentation is usually intense. Without perspective training, naive artists opt for direct representations of their subjects, using instinctive combinations of bold colours and lines rather than subtle tones. ​

Disregarded by the art world as being amateurish, Naive artists only gained recognition years after the movement first emerged. Social stigma pervaded early on with its followers being negatively labelled as “social misfits.” Many of its members were simply working with what they had. Henri Rousseau, Jean Dubuffet and Alfred Wallis were all catalytic examples of Raw Art creatives, each producing works that were recognized later as being highly influential.

Henri Rousseau (Laval, France. 1844-1910)


Henri Rousseau was a French post-impressionist painter known for his detailed wildlife scenes and primitive depictions of France’s natural landscapes. Also known as “Le Douanier” or “Customs Officer” because of his day job, Rousseau would pivot later in his adult life to fully embrace painting. Like many Naive artists who followed in his footsteps, Rousseau was self taught and was often ridiculed by his contemporaries in local art circles. He would finally gain recognition from the likes of Picasso and Jean Hugo, while being a major influence for future Surrealist painters, who emerged years after his passing. One of his most prolific works “Snake Charmer” still hangs today in the Louvre’s Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

Jean Dubuffet (Le Havre, France. 1901-1985)


Born three hours north of Rousseau’s hometown in Le Havre France, Jean Dubuffet’s induction into the Naive Art canon came from a perspective shift, rather that one of circumstance. He was raised in a middle-class, wine producing family which afforded him an art school education in Paris. After studying painting at the Académie Julian, Dubuffet developed a distaste for traditional education and dismissed overly intellectual approaches to art. He was driven to free himself from the pretension of refinement by creating depictions of everyday scenes with common tools. Outside of his paints, Dubuffet was known to experiment with ballpoint pens, sandpaper and orange peels, while narrowing colour palettes down to a limited spectrum of dramatic tones for a collection of lithographs he created, called Phenomena.

I feel that beauty is merely an accidental and very specious convention. I feel that the things which are reputed to be ugly are so reputed without reason, and are no less beautiful than the things reputed to be beautiful. - Jean Dubuffet

Alfred Wallis (Devonport, England. 1855-1942)


Perhaps one of the best examples of naive art at its core came from humbler beginnings. Alfred Wallis was born across the English Channel on the island’s southern coast and was a seasoned fisherman who took off on his first voyage at 9 years old. He turned to painting in late adulthood, following the death of his wife in an effort to find peace. Wallis’ work was focused on his personal memories of maritime life, and is punctuated by various ships, fish and coastal downs all painted with grandiose proportions.

True to Naive Art’s more distinct characteristics, Wallis manipulated scale to reflect the object’s importance or his emotional state at the time. He worked purely from memory and despite making very little money from his paintings, gained recognition from esteemed English artists, like Ben Nicholson and Kit Wood, who helped him promote his work in London.

Wallis like his French contemporaries upended expectations of what art could be, and promoted a movement that has been accepted in most circles as authentic and a more accurate representation of natural creativity.


You can find the Song for the Mute’s full SS21 collection, “21.1 Naïve” available in-store and online now at Roden Gray..

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