Folk art is a catch-all term used to describe paintings, sculptures, and textiles produced by artisans and craftspeople with little or no formal training. Sometimes referred to as “naïve” or “outsider” art, folk art paintings often lack realism and techniques such as perspective, while folk art sculptures are formed from cheap, accessible materials like discarded wood.

In colonial and post-Revolutionary War America, folk art was also a vestige of old-country traditions. German immigrants in Pennsylvania were partial to decorative, boldly colored depictions of animals and floral motifs, recalling styles that were associated with the Rhineland. In contrast, New England portrait artists working during the same period favored the stilted, mannerist style of their native England.

That’s one of the wonderful, if occasionally confounding, characteristics of folk art—unlike other art styles or genres, you cannot sum up its look in 25 words or less. Even objects that deal with similar subject matter often appear to be worlds apart. For example, the devotional “retablos” painted by artists in the southwestern United States would never be mistaken for the equally devout paintings of Howard Finster and other religious, visionary artists in the southeast. More than most forms of art, folk art is a product of the people and places where it was produced.

In addition to decorated handmade furniture, religiously inspired paintings, and stiff portraits, another popular branch of folk art is known as tramp art. Most of these wooden boxes and frames were handmade by artisans who either needed an object for their own use or had made a piece for a family member—that probably explains the profusion of hearts on jewelry and sewing boxes. Though usually associated with wooden surfaces that have been notched and carved, tramp art came in a myriad of flavors, guided by the cultural roots and upbringing of their creators.

Other examples of folk art include carved wood or painted tin weathervanes, some featuring complicated and fanciful whirligigs; snakes or human figures whose limbs or torsos were made out of bottle caps; delicate samplers (used to teach young girls needleworking skills) depicting rural landscapes and letters of the alphabet; quilts blanketed in stars, triangles, and medallions; and duck decoys, which were carved by hunters and are especially prized today since so many of them were destroyed when lighter, plastic decoys came into vogue after World War II.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

American Folk Art Museum

American Folk Art Museum

The American Folk Art Museum's website showcases current and past exhibitions along with their permanent collection… [read review or visit site]

Anonymous Works

Anonymous Works

This blog combines American primitive folk art, vintage vernacular photography, outsider art, and other interesting… [read review or visit site]

The Outsider Art Pages

The Outsider Art Pages

A modern look at folk and outsider art with a focus on what people are doing to keep these traditions alive. The si… [read review or visit site]

Folk Art in Bottles

Folk Art in Bottles

Whether you call them Bottle Whimseys, Whimsey Bottles, Puzzle Bottles, or Whimsies, this site showcases great folk… [read review or visit site]

Index of American Design

Index of American Design

The Index of American Design project (1935-1942) was an effort to catalog American decorative arts objects from the… [read review or visit site]

Stoveburner.com

Stoveburner.com

A stunning collection of 162 images of stoveburners, those corroded cast iron elements that power stoves, broilers,… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique 18thc Folk Art O/c Primitive Portrait Oil Painting Boy In Blue JacketAntique Early 20thc Folk Art Carved Painted Wood Miniature Goose Decoy CarvingAntique Authentic Early 20thc Folk Art Copper Rooster Weathervane, Nr19th C Paint Decorated Folk Art Dome Top Box Dresser Box Antique Document BoxEarly Antique Carved & Painted Wood Folk Art Santos Sculpture Jesus Mary JosephAntique American Folk Art Painted, Play Fair, Checkers & Parcheesi Game Board, NAntique Hand Carved & Painted Wood Folk Art Englsh Man & Cigarette, Nr19th C Antique Sailor Folk Art Scrimshaw Figural Leg - Pipe Tamper #1 NrAntique Life-size Hand Painted Folk Art Chalkware Pigeon Bird Statue SculpturePrimitive Americana: Antique Folk Art Carved Wooden Butter Mold W/ Eagle, 19thc.Vintage Indian Kantha Quilted Embroidery - Primitive Birds Folk Art - Cot QuiltAntique Stoneware: Ma Jug W/ Cobalt Folk Art, Att. Edmands, Charlestown, C.1860Antique Stoneware: Folk Art Sewer Tile Redware, Recumbent Lion, Signed Le, 1937Vintage / Antique Circa 1880 Folk Art Running Horse Copper Weathervane Early Lanier Meader Face Jug ~ Rock Teeth ~ Southern Folk Art PotteryVintage 38 1/4" 4-string Bass Guitar ~ Handmade? Folk Art Guitar!! Neat!!Antique 1830s American Empire Folk Art Painted Stenciled Mahogany Mirror, NrAntique Huge 103" Early 1900's Folk Art America Hand Made Hooked Rug Runner YqzAntique-vintage-factory-old-folk Art-redhead-mason DecoyUnique Lot Early Miniature Stuffed Mohair Animals Monkey Bears Folk Art Yqz Antique 19th C Carved & Painted Folk Art Cane W/dovetailed Handle #1 Nr1890-1910 Antique Leather Toy Horse Aafa Folk Art Nr Americana Primitive CountryPrimitive Punch Needle ~ "fraidy Cat" ~halloween ~ Folk Art ~ Wooden HornbookC1830 Charming Folk Art Shaker Style Naive Portrait Miniature Boy & Hoop. ChildAntique 1855 Folk Art Beaded Mourning Picture Willow Tree Hungarian MemorialOld Antique Carved Fish Bait Sign Wood Figure Folk Art Maritime Decor Authentic Antique Primitive Carved Wood Folk Art Oriole Bird Sculpture Glass Eyes Decoy 3 Original Winston Mayo Black Americana Outsider Art Folk Art Decoupage PaintingRare Antique Wood White Stork Folk Art Weathervane Decoy Sign Old Paint AafaAntique Folk Art Carved Wood Steamboat With Steam Engine Aafa Porter Toy Boat Vintage You Must Be 36" Tall Carnival Ride Sign Amusement Park Fair Folk ArtAntique Early 20thc American Folk Art Carved Wood Figure, Man, Monocle & Podium19th C Antique Sailor Folk Art Bone Letter Seal - Pipe Tamper #13 NrAntique-vintage-factory-old-folk Art-pintail-mason-duck DecoyNr! Two Folk Art Portraits, Girl With Flower Basket, Boy With Bird, Full LengthVery Rare Mint; Giant 34" 1970 Sherman Dewey "sturgeon" Wood Folk Art Fish DecoyOriginal 1939 Worlds Fair, Folk Art Model Miniature John Wise House, Nr19th C Antique Early American Folk Art Portrait Painting Young Girl In Red DressPatriotic Civil War Pencil Watercolor, 88th Pennsylvania, 1862 Folk Art TattooVintage Rooster Metal Weathervane Folk Art Mid Century Estate Find Antique 19th Century Soldier Weathervane Old Paint Great Original Folk Art AafaHand Painted Antique Carved Wood Box Black Cat Witch Magic Halloween Folk Art NrVintage Hand Carved Wood Folk Art Primitive Swimming Mallard Duck Decoy Great 19th C Oil On Canvas Folk Art Portrait Of A Young Woman Great Background''super Dagon Slug' A Surreal Folk Art Critter By Face Jug Maker Ron DahlineVintage Double Sided Advertising Horse Farm Sign Folk Art Americana Trade SignPrimitive Punch Needle ~"trick Or Tweet"~crow & Pumpkin Fall Make-do ~folk Art~Great Marvin Bailey Lancaster South Carolina Sc Folk Art Pottery Face Jug Nr1920 La Crosse, Wisconsin Fish Decoy, Ice Spear Fishing Folk ArtPrimitive Punch Needle ~ "mr. Jack" ~ Halloween Folk Art ~ Jol ~ Cupboard HangerAntique & Original American Folk Art Sampler Dated 1706Antique-vintage-old-folk Art-john English-bluebill-duck DecoyVintage Custom Octagonal Head Banjo Uke Ukulele U-king Folk Art ObscureNice Early Mallard Duck Decoy In Grungy Old Paint Great Piece Of Folk ArtAntique Violin With Bow And Wood Case Folk Art Relic For Restore Or CollectorAntique 19c American Folk Art "two Cows Grazing" Landscape Oil On BoardPrimitive Folk Art Hooked Rug Pumpkin Jack O Lantern Farmhouse Fall Halloween A Fantastic 19th C Folk Art Inlaid Document Box Great Birdseye Maple InlayPrimitive Punch Needle ~ "pumpkin & Crow" ~ Fall ~ Folk Art ~ Mini Rug ~ MatNice Early Mallard Duck Decoy In Grungy Old Paint Great Piece Of Folk Art 2