“Primitivism” is less an aesthetic movement than a sensibility or cultural attitude that has informed diverse aspects of Modern art. It refers to Modern art that alludes to specific stylistic elements of tribal objects and other non-Western art forms. With roots in late 19th century Romanticism’s fascination with foreign civilizations and distant lands, it also designates the “primitive” as a myth of paradise lost for late-19th and 20th century culture.

However, the usage of the word “primitive” to describe cultures and creations outside of the European tradition is degrading, and Western artists generally did not understand the cultural symbols and art forms that they were appropriating. Also, exposure to African, Mesoamerican, and Oceanic art was generally the result of colonialism, which had a profound and damaging impact on cultural traditions around the world. As a result, I would like for you to take a look at the diverse art and cultures that inspired the European artists that we have been studying in this course.

Please present a work of art or tribal artifact from one of these cultures and take a moment to describe its iconography, cultural context, and material and visual form. Once again, please include an image in your post and make your post by Friday at 11:59 PM and comment on two other posts by Monday at 11:59 PM.

Here are some links that may help you get started (but please note that you have many other options):

  • African influences on Modern
  • African Art, New York, and the Avant-Garde
  • Polynesian and Micronesian art and culture:
  • “Japonisme” and 19th century European art:
  • Woodblock Prints in the Ukiyo-e Style
  • “Primitivism”
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