Primitivism Essay

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“Why is the art of primitive peoples not considered art at all?”(Nolde, E. 1934). This art of primitive peoples that Emil Nolde refers to is something that is truly appealing to many artists and offers a great source of inspiration for their works. Artists such as Paul Gauguin and Emil Nolde both draw inspiration from these primitive forms of art and borrow different aspects in order to become closer to nature and return to a more pure and expressionistic form of art.

Paul Gauguin is said to have always felt like an ‘other’, a primitive and therefore in his later years set out in search of a pure society that was close to nature and free from the corruption of civilisation. ‘Gauguin is traditionally cast as the founding father of modernist primitivism.’ (Solomon-Godeau, A. 1989. pp314) His many works explore and express his desire to find authenticity and to ‘become a savage’. Similar to Gauguin, Emil Nolde seeks to return to a oneness with nature, in an attempt to bridge German’s past with its future. Using traditional German forms of art such as folk art and craft and combining this with that of modern images, using loose brushstrokes to create an earthy and natural feel to his works. Nolde was a part of the German Expressionism movement which sought to unshackle their civilisation and return to nature and freedom.

“Primitive peoples create their works with the material itself in the artist’s hand, held in his fingers.” (Nolde, 1934) This statement by Nolde explores tactility and the idea of the power of expression in such simple forms, which is what Nolde explains to be a contributing factor as to why artists are so drawn to the works of the primitive peoples. These simple, natural works are intense in their expression of power and meaning thus providing artist such as Nolde and Gauguin with inspiration and direction for their works, showing them how to create simple yet expressive works of art that are moving and captivating to the viewer. Emil...
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