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]

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]

Bob Vermillion - Folk Art Tackle

Bob Vermillion - Folk Art Tackle

Bob Vermillion started collecting lures at age 16. Accordingly, his handsome site is dedicated to his love of folk-… [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]

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    

Miniature Antique 19thc Folk Art Watercolor Portrait Painting, Young Boy, NrSmall Antique Early 20thc Folk Art Painted Carnival Gambling Wheel & Stand, NrMiniature Child's Antique Splint Buttocks Basket In Old Blue Paint Folk Art AafaAntique 1885 Folk Art Cut-paper F Frotle Silhouette Painting Sally Jones, Age-4Antique 1835 Folk Art Cut-paper Frederick Frith Silhouette Painting Sally JonesAntique German Black Forest Folk Art Carved Whistler Automaton Clockwork LampsRare 18th C Antique Rev War Wrought Iron Flint Striker Folk Art Early MetalwareOriginal Havre De Grace Signed Mallard Drake Duck Decoy Maryland Folk Art #1 YqzAntique 19thc Folk Art Oil Painting, French Stilt-walking Shepherd Sheep & DogAntique Log Cabin Quilt Block Pattern Hand Stitched American Folk Art Nr #3 YqzPair Antique Early 19thc William Doyle Boston Folk Art Silhouettes, NrWow Antique Dated 1824 Martha Meadowcroft Age 9 Needlework Sampler Folk Art Yqz19thc Antique 1870 American Farm Folk Art Pencil Drawing, The Baker HomesteadVintage Sandwiches & Beer Painted Bar Pub Advertising Sconce Eagle Folk Art SignAntique 19thc Folk Art Young Girl Lace Dress & Roses Portrait O/c Oil PaintingAntique York Penna Stenciled Canadian Canada Goose Decoy Folk Art Carving #2 YqzVintage Lone Star Pattern Hand Pieced Yellow & Red Quilt American Folk Art 4 YqzAntique C 1940 Marked Canvasback Duck Decoy Folk Art Carving James Breslin 4 YqzOriginal Dave Wooten Chesapeake Bay Canadian Goose Decoy Folk Art Carving #3 YqzMcadoo Rugs Vt American Folk Art Primitive Hand Hooked Dog & Beach Ball Rug YqzAntique Victorian Era Mountain Stag Old Deer Antler Folk Art Cane Walking Stick'a Madder Hatter' A Surreal Southern Folk Art Face Jug By Ron Dahline Rare & Important Pair 19th C American Miniature Folk Art Watercolor Portraits Antique Country Splint Gathering Basket In Old Salmon Paint Folk Art Aafa Nr!Kim's Klaus~handmade Primitive Folk Art Witch~vintage Antique Halloween DollAntique 19th C Primitive Hand Carved Wood Duck Decoy Folk Art Rotating Head YqzAntique Country Splint Gathering Basket In Old Olive Green Paint Folk Art Aafa Vintage N.c. Miniature Child's Splint Basket In Old Red Paint Folk Art Aafa Nr!Mystery Artist Folk Art Style Still Life Bowl Yellow Lemons Oil On Wood PaintingVintage 20th C Country Splint Lidded Basket In Old Cream Paint Folk Art Aafa NrAntique Country Splint Gathering Basket In Old Off White Paint Folk Art Aafa NrAntique Old 19th Century Adorable Cute Folk Art Signed Carrow Cat Oil PaintingVintage Nine Patch Block Pattern Hand Stitched Quilt American Folk Art Nr #1 YqzEarly 1975 Lester Breininger Signed Folk Art Ram Or Sheep Redware Berks CountyAntique Primitive Carved Wood Shoe Shape Pipe Tamper - Fine Detail - Folk Art Mose T Moses Tolliver Freedom Bus Painting Outsider Folk Art19th C Antique Wooden Barrel Shaped Salt Box In Old Pumpkin Paint Folk Art AafaAntique Hand Carved Whittled American Folk Art Black Americana Man With Top HatAntique Early 20thc American Folk Art Carved Wood Horse Toy, NrDuck Decoy Mason Early Pintail Drake Antique Vintage Folk Art DecoyPrimitive Folk Art Fall Autumn Painted Pumpkin Head Doll 2 Ft. Tall & Baby CrowsOriginal Painting Folk Art Halloween Black Cat Witch Devil Costume Candy Ghost 1950 Leroy Howell 3 Color Beauty~folk Art Fish Spearing Decoy~ Ice Fishing LureJohn Cornbread Anderson Georgia Southern Outsider Folk Art Red Headed WoodpeckerOriginal Bill Faix American Folk Art California Quail Bird Decoy Carving Nr YqzAntique Wooden Guatemalan Figural Bat/fish Ethnographic Folk Art Dance Mask YqzVtg Primitive Cedar Burl Wood Secret Puzzle Box W/drawers American Folk Art YqzAntique Lot Early Painted Folk Art Wood Toy Tops Lot Of 7 W/antique Bowl AafaEarly Antique Handmade Wooden Folk Art Checker Game Board Aafa Painted 2 SidedBest Early Antique Cast Iron Lamb 2 Piece Mold Folk Art Aafa PatinaEarly Antique Handmade Heart Shaped Wire Folk Art Basket Patina Aafa19th C Antique Barrel Shaped Salt Box In Old Bittersweet Paint Folk Art Aafa Nr!Duck Decoy Mason ? Pintail Drake Antique Vintage Folk Art DecoyVintage ~ Cast Iron Dove ~ Gate Weight-like~ Folk Art Bird Windmill?Folk Art Antique Tin & Iron Metal Arrow Patina Handmade Aafa LargeA 19th C Miniature Folk Art Hudson River Valley Painting Gristmill And SailboatsReally Cool Old Folk Art Glass Eye Frog Lure Circa 1930sVintage Flying Eagle Weathervane Top Copper Wings Spread Folk Art Primitive1940s Minnesota Pike~folk Art Fish Spearing Decoy~winter Ice Fishing LureAafa Paint Decorated Tin Sugar Flour Canisters Folk Art Tole Kitchen Container