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18th Century American Folk Art Painters

Updated on July 21, 2017
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Ancient art and architecture isn't only for historians, but for people like us who’ve always been interested in anything olden and periodic.

Early American folk art painters were not really professional artists but they certainly had a flair to draw and paint. Their amateurish works which were simple and pretty were created mainly to decorate their homes and adorn their interior walls.

At the time, the citizenry barely had access to works and paintings of famous European artists or reproductions of their art and they were quite content with their own "primitive" paintings which they created to blend harmoniously with their interior furnishings.

American Folk Artwork - The Lincoln Children
American Folk Artwork - The Lincoln Children | Source

Many 18th-century American folk painters were home-owners, journeymen painters, and young girls in the family who had to (as a custom) study drawing and painting at finishing schools.

Many of the paintings, which have stood the test of time, are mostly anonymous as they were seldom signed by the "artist".

Early Works of American Folk Painters

New England, Virginia, western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and the Hudson River sections were replete with beautiful picturesque views and lovely landscape views that stretched unobstructed for miles. This greatly appealed to and influenced the local inhabitants' to show their artistic flair by painting scenes they saw, worked, and lived with daily.

The Early folk painting was produced massively with paintings varying in technical proficiency, evidence that showed their lack of knowledge of perspective.

They painted mostly simple and naïve works where sketches were poorly done and colours unnatural.

Faces appeared disproportionate with the bodies, and legs were too short for the torsos.

Nonetheless, these paintings were characteristically vital; visibly showing a conscientious effort on the part of the artist to produce a "great" painting.

Subjects of Primitive Paintings

Most of the primitive paintings produced by the 18th-century artists had every conceivable subject that could be imagined at the time.

The most common themes of 18th-century folk art, many of them collector’s items used in today's informal interior settings, include:

  • Village scenes
  • City scenes
  • Landscapes
  • Churches and important public structures
  • Seascapes
  • Portraits
  • Farmhouse scenes
  • Military wars
  • Naval battles
  • Horse-racing scenes
  • Religious groups

These artworks are great representations of a definite era of American art and culture.

Modern painters may have capitalised on the crudity of these early styles of painting by folk art painters, but the simplicity and authenticity of the paintings tell us of a history of honest representations and attempts at producing simple natural art by simple honest people.

American Folk Art
American Folk Art | Source

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