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 American Folk Art Hand Carved & Painted Wood Birds Nest Wall HangingLarge 19thc Antique Hand Carved Folk Art Life Size American Eagle Sculpture, NrAmazing Antique Folk Art Pennsylvania Butter Paddle Early 1800's Heart MoldAntique American Miniature Folk Art Carved & Painted Flying Duck, No Reserve!3 Antique Folk Art Canes, Carved Wood & Brass Dog Head & Canon Figural HandlesAntique American Folk Art Painted & Carved Wood Crow Bird Decoy, NrAntique 19thc American Folk Art Carved, Painted & Inlaid Box Chest, NrAntique C1920s American Folk Art Painted Wood Egyptian Revival Butler StandLg 19thc Antique Victorian Portrait Old Lady Sewing With Girls Folk Art PaintingPrimitive Folk Art Antique Carved Wood Woman Figure Early Paint Beautiful DetailSmall Antique 19thc Folk Art Oil Painting, Winter Snow Children Wood Sled, NrAntique Old Vintage Trade Sign Barber Pole Folk Art All Original19thc Antique Maritime Folk Art Diorama, Packet Ship Salem, Wood Sails, NrAntique Victorian Type Wood Carved Figural Winged Angel Old Folk Art Wall StatueAntique Carved Bear Sewing Caddy Folk Art Treen Pincushion Black Forest C 1900Antique American Western Folk Art Yosemite National Park Oil Painting, NrAmazing Civil War Union Soldier Horseback Antique Folk Art Early Carved Wood ToyAntique Authentic 19thc Folk Art Painted Chalkware Dog & Cat, No Reserve!Rare & Important 19th C American Folk Art Portrait Attributed To Sheldon PeckAntique 19thc Primitive Hooded Cradle, Original Folk Art Stenciled Grained PaintAntique Spanish Colonial Folk Art Carved, Painted Santos Saint Francis Of AssisiAntique Early-20thc American Folk Art Carved Marble Stone, Young Girl PortraitMiniature Split Melon Basket Cobalt Blue Paint Aafa Folk Art PrimitiveRare Antique Centennial Style Carved Shield Patriotic U.s. Flag Paint Folk ArtAntique C 1899 8 Drawer Oak Hanging Spice Rack Cabinet Primitive Folk Art Nr YqzScarce 18th C Figural Wolf Flint Striker Forged Iron Steel Antique Folk Art Nr!Aafa Primitive Folk Art Apothecary Spice Wood Hanging Cabinet 6 Drawer'gnarl' A Surreal Southern Folk Art Face Jug By Ron DahlineAntique 1930s Folk Art 2 Ships In A Bottle With Lighthouse, Lamp Diorama, NrSwedish Dala Horse Set - Scarce - 11 Pieces - Folk Art - Carving - SwedenLate 19th C. Rare Antique Carved Wooden Eagle Plaque Finial Gilt Aafa Folk ArtVintage Black Americana Style Dancing Man Wood Carved Toy Folk Art JiggerAntique Carved & Painted Folk Art, Working Shorebird Decoy, Guaranteed, Nr19thc Antique Folk Art, Tramp Art, Puzzle Box, Baby Rattle, Original Paint, NrOld Folk Art Country Store Trade Sign Old Paint Wood Hand W/pointing Finger AafaColonial Era Tasmanian Huon Pine & Mixed Native Wood Basket 1800s Folk ArtAntique ~marbles Axe Co.~ Miniature Salesman Hatchet & Stump Folk Art Primitive'candy Colored Manfish' A Surreal Folk Art Face Jug Sculpture By Ron DahlineOld Mexico Folk Art Pottery Tree Of Life Candelabrum Birds Berry Great SignatureEstate- Lge Old Folk Art Naive Wood Carved Nude Woman C1930s As A Lamp 31" Estate- Lge 20" Old Folk Art Naive Wood Carved Bust Of A Woman Circa 1930s Primitive Folk Art Hooked Rug Cat Jack O Lantern Halloween Make Do Vintage Antique Folk Art Box Walnuts & Shells Tintypes, Boot Maker & Family Dog KentuckyAntique Lamb Butter Stamp Mold Aafa Sheep Folk Art Primitive TreenAntique Fox Terrier Airedale Dog Cast Iron Door Stop In Original Folk Art PaintOld Working Hooded Merganser Duck Decoy Antique Primitive Folk Art OriginalPrimitive~folk Art~raggedy Ann~****~faith-family-friends~****~Primitive Punch Needle ~"autumn Bounty"~ Folk Art ~ Turkey ~ Wooden Shaker BoxAntique 19thc Double Heart Handle Butter Tub Orig Paint Aafa Folk Art Primitive Primitive Folk Art Pumpkin Head Girl HalloweenEstate- Tall Old Folk Art Naive Wood Carved Nude Woman C1930s As A Lamp 31 Inch1850's Hand Painted American Masonic Apron W/ Outstanding Folk Art Decoration #1Antique 19th Century American Folk Art Fish Hook Advertising Iron Trade SignEstate- Large 20" Old Folk Art Naive Wood Carved Bust Of A Woman Circa 1930s Rare Antique 19c Miniature Folk Art Love Token Shoe Ball In Cage & InitialledAntique 19thc Hog Hair Swine Brush Peaseware? Aafa Shaker? Folk Art Primitive13" Primitive Folk Art Cloth Doll- Gail Wilson Designs Izannah Walker Vintage Folk Art Primitive Carved Wooden Whimsey & Chain - East Tennessee EstatePrimitive Punch Needle ~ Fall Pumpkin ~ Folk Art ~ Cupboard Hanger ~ PinkeepFolk Art Primitive Halloween Black Polka Dot Witch Pumpkin Nodder Decoration Tag