First published: Summer 2010

A domestic artistic tradition with a rich history of untrained art, particularly folk art, has long existed in the Czech and Slovak Republics. In the 1960s a number of intellectuals and followers of spontaneous creative work supported the initiative of ŠTefan Tkác (1931–1989), the founder and organiser of the Triennial of Naïve Art, a periodical international show first held in 1966, who coined the term ‘insitus art’ (in Latin, insitus, insita, insitum: inborn, genuine, instinctive, untrained).



The exhibition showed work from both West and East Europe, with Henri Rousseau, Séraphine, André Bauchant, Louis Vivin and Camille Bombois from France, as well as artists from other countries with a strong popular artistic tradition (Poland, former Yugoslavia and former Czechoslovakia). Oto-Bihalji-Merin (1904–1993), the Serbian art theorist, attempted to categorise the phenomenon in the catalogue to the exhibition. He named its first discoverers: Paul Gauguin, Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso, André Derrain, Henri Matisse, the German Expressionists and James Joyce, all of them striving to trace the primeval essence of art through untrained creators, appreciating its elementary visions, rudimentary forms and magical signs.

Croatian painter Ivan Rabuzin was awarded the Douanier Rousseau Prize for his metaphorical and dreamy landscapes at the second Insita Triennial in 1969, where each participating country curated their own collection. Selected shows, including a collection of expressive, poetic and humourous signboards from Nigeria, were included in this year's highly inspiring and broadly-conceived exhibition, which focused on the search for extreme manifestations and the common roots of naïve art in relation to children’s artistic expression, the tribal art of Africa and Oceania, the art of the mentally disabled and folk art.

A wide range of works from the 18th and 19th centuries – votive pictures from France, Brazil, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Italy and Slovakia, shooting targets from Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia depicting mythological allegories and historical and period social scenes – were displayed at the following Triennial, where Ivan Rabuzin was also featured. Paintings from Ethiopia, freely associated with the Byzantine traditions, were also shown, to present the prehistory of naïve art. The Douanier Rousseau Prize was awarded to Petr Halák from Prague for his collection of works with meditative expression.


This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #69

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