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    

Antique 19thc Folk Art Oil Painting Steam Train & River Ferry, NrSmall Antique 19th Mustard & Red Paint Folk Art Gameboard, NrThe Best Early 19th C Wrought Iron Game Utensil Rack 18th Folk Art Antique Nr!19thc Antique American Folk Art Inlaid Walnut & Maple Star Mirror Frame, NrAntique Burl Treenware Dough Bowl Make Do Vintage Folk Art Primitive Americana3 Antique American Folk Art Carved & Painted Working Duck Decoys, NrRare Antique American Folk Art Wood Miniature Painting Acorn Still BankPr Antique American Folk Art Primitive Carved & Painted Western Longhorn CowsAntique 19th C Continental Folk Art Delightfully Hand Painted Blanket Chest YqzVtg Signed Stevens Pegleg Curlew Shorebird Decoy Primitive Folk Art Carving YqzAntique Maritime Folk Art Carved Walnut Sailor Fisherman Storm Slicker & HatAntique Shaker Small Wooden Pantry Box In Old Blue Paint Primitive Folk Art19th C Round Wooden Bowl In Early Deep Red Painted Surface Folk Art - Aafa Vintage Hand Stitched Patchwork Star Quilt Folk Art Bed Covering 82" X 80" YqzRare 19th Century Folk Art Steam Engine Powered Wood Pond Boat Working AmazingAntique Original Wwii Japanese Occupation Folk Art Painted Pin-up Canvas BagAntique German Black Forest Carved & Painted Wood Folk Art Gnome Band FiguresAntique Folk Art Naive Treen / Carved Wood Model Boot / Shoe - Desk Paper WeightWhat Is This? 18thc Antique 1783 Carved & Folk Art Painted Primitive, NrUnique! Antique Inuit Eskimo Folk Art Bird Decoy Burl Wood Carving Sculpture YqzVtg Canada Carved Shorebird Waterbird Herring Decoy Folk Art Signed Shepherd YqzVintage Carved Shorebird Waterbird Decoy Folk Art Signed David Buckley Dwb YqzEarly 19th Century Primitive Needlework Sampler Dated 1827 Antique Folk ArtRare & Important 19th C American Folk Art Portrait By William Matthew Prior1950 Leroy Howell Gold Minnow~folk Art Fish Spearing Decoy~ice Fishing Lure1950 Leroy Howell Red Minnow~folk Art Fish Spearing Decoy~ice Fishing LureVintage Signed American Folk Art Jack Russell Terrier Dog Portrait Oil PaintingAntique, Vtg, Folk Art, Carved Wood Noahs Ark & Animals, Germany Christmas PutzAntique/vintage Wood Carved Eagle,folk Art, Weathered, On Drift WoodKirks Folly Milagros Mexican Folk Art - Angel Heart Magnetic Enhancer SilvertoneAntique Folk Art Lucky Cannel Coal Boots / Shoes - Durham Or Scottish MinersAntique Folk Art Primitive Miniature Pigeon Chicken Coop Salesman Sample Nr YqzRichard Morgan Connecticut Flying Shorebird Pegleg Decoy Folk Art Carving Nr YqzRick Whitier Bluespot Sunfish~folk Art Fish Spearing Decoy~ice Fishing LureVintage Camy Rocher Folk Art Haitian Haiti Nude Mermaid & Fish Oil PaintingSan Blas Island Kuna Indian Mola Bird Folk Art Quilt Textile Panel Panama #2 YqzCarved Figural Face Wooden Antique Folk Art Cane Handle Walking Stick French ?Tom Richards Brook Trout Fish Decoy Spearing Folk Art Rick Whitier Large Mouth Bass~folk Art Fish Spearing Decoy~ice Fishing Lure18" Antique Primitive Folk Art Spotted Dog & Red Wagon Wood & Metal Pull ToyPre Civil War Needlework Sampler Dated 1829 Antique Folk Art 19th Century LinenVintage Pair Carved Wood & Brass Mourning Dove Pigeon Bird Folk Art Figures YqzVintage Mesoamerican Mexican Folk Art Story Fairy Tale Wood Plate Charger Nr YqzAntique Victorian Style Child & Shovel At Beach Old Coastal Folk Art PaintingUnique Antique Wooden Canoe Cup Folk ArtVtg Deruta Italy Majolica Folk Art Fox & Rabbit Earthenware Canister Set 2 YqzVintage Hand Crafted African Congo Lulua Tribe Folk Art Mask Shield On Mount YqzLowell K Walker Tramp Art Box Chip Carved Folk Art Outsider Art AmericanAntique 19th Century Shaker Bentwood Pantry Box Folk Art Orig Green Finish YqzAntique Miniature Dry Sink Doll Kitchen Furniture Salesman Sample Folk Art YqzOriginal Signed Johnny Sanchez Costa Rica Folk Art Humming Bird Pottery Vase YqzAn Exceptional ,folk Art Hanging Fire Station Sign, Eagle & Stars, A MasterpieceUkrainian Pysanka Easter Colored Egg Folk Art 1 Oz Silver Coin 20$ Canada 2016Kl 10.5" Crying-eye Devil Face Jug, Stoneware Whiskey Jug, Southern Folk Art Antique Folk Art Carved Stone "hope" Book 2.25" X 3" Hearts FlowerPrimitive Folk Art Wool Applique Make-do Pincushion-pinkeep Sterling Silver BaseKirks Folly Milagros Mexican Folk Art - Angel Heart Magnetic Enhance Silvertone~*~ Estate Find~*~ Huge Antique Wood Working Decoy Folk ArtPrimitive Bunny Rabbit Doll Rhinestone Buttons Old Lace Folk Art Bunny DollAntique Carved Treen Folk Art Panel Plaque Witch Lady 18th Or 19th Century