Primitivism, an art movement you may not know much about — but definitely should

"Primitivism is born of the interplay of the civilized self and the desire to reject or transform it..."

-Michael Bell


Modern art movements are born out of political engagement, decolonization, marginalization and conflict.


In a world that values immediacy, mass production and perfection, there is a visceral reaction to "primitive" and tribal art. When surrounded by natural forms that contain a communal and organic origin we feel as if we are confronting reality. Primitivism also implies the search for a simpler more basic way of life, away from industrialization, urbanization and social restrictions, a time when people were more connected to nature and each other. Even though art produced in Africa, the South Pacific and Indonesia has existed for centuries, at the turn of the 20th Century early modern European artists showed a fascination with what was then called "primitive" art. They considered it to be a new, exotic, and unorthodox type of artistic expression.


Primitive art's use of simpler shapes and more abstract figures differed significantly from traditional European styles of representation. The aesthetics of African sculpture became a powerful influence on European artists including Gauguin, Picasso and Matisse. While these artists often knew nothing of the original meaning and function of the West and Central African sculptures they encountered, they were searching for a new visual vocabulary and adopted these qualities in their own work. As a result of these artists’ interest and appreciation, what was once called "primitive" art is now seen as having equal value to Western art forms, as it should.


For Lucca Antiques, tribal art that fits within the realm of Primitivism is about understanding this complicated history and finding beauty in that juxtaposition. It is not about romanticism of the unknown, but rather a deep reverence for what is raw and authentic.