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    

Pair Antique 19thc Hand Carved Mahogany Folk Art English Lions, NrAntique 1850s Life-sized Child & Dog American Ny Folk Art Portrait Oil PaintingRare Lrg 1874 Antique Folk Art Ioof Odd Fellows Miniature Calligraphy EngravingAntique American Folk Art Silk & Wool Sampler W/ House & Trees, Nr2 Antique 19thc American Folk Art Samplers By Sarah Jane Van Duyn, NrAntique 1890's American Folk Art Bass Fish 19th C Fishing Oil Painting 13"x10"nrVictorian Sailors Woolwork Picture- Masted Ship Antique Signed Dated Folk Art Antique 19thc Spanish Colonial Folk Art Carved Wood Santos, Jesus & Lamb Of GodAafa-a Folk Art, Naive, Primitive Style Oil On Canvas, Horse & Rider Painting.Mid 1800s Needlework Band Alphabet Sampler Folk Art Signd Margaret Age 18 #1 YqzVtg Jimmie Sudduth Listed Outsider Folk Art Mud On Wood Portrait Painting Nr YqzAntique Fabulos American Folk Art Figure 19th Carved Wood Patina Rare Old LookEarly 20thc Folk Art Hand Carved Wood Cardinal Bird FigureVintage Primitive Burl Wood Wooden Plate Desktop Dresser Tray Bowl Folk Art YqzFantastic Pair Of 19th C Primitive American Folk Art Portraits ! Husband & Wife!Antique Native American Iroquois Indian Beaded Bird Pin Cushion Folk Art(6) Hand Carved Italian Folk Art Figurines-circa 1930'sAntique Miniature Wooden Primitive Firkin~sugar / Mincemeat Bucket Folk Art YqzShooting Gallery Target Croquet Wicket Original Paint Folk Art Sideshow Aafa OldSm Antique Shaker Wooden Pantry Box In Crusty Old Paint Primitive Folk Art Nores1839 Dated Spanish Folk Art Needlework Alphabet Sampler By Senorita Maria #2 YqzVintage Brown Ring Jug Harvest Jug North Carolina Folk Art Pottery Canteen YqzEarly 1900s Antique Primitive Pieced Autumn Oak Leaf Quilt On White Folk Art YqzOrignal & Rare Gulf Porcelain Sign, Gulf Oil, Gulf Gas. Folk Art, Gas StationAntique C1899 Repeating Blocks Silk & Velvet Primitive Crazy Quilt Folk Art YqzVintage Shorebird Heron Crane Carved Primitive Wooden Bird Decoy Folk Art Nr YqzC1900 Antique American Folk Art O/c Oil Painting, Lighthouse On Island, NrAntique Folk Art Wooden Shore Bird Large CraneAntq. Steampunk Folk Art Miner's Handcrafted Wrought Iron Sticking Tommy Candle(6) Hand Carved Italian Folk Art Figurines-circa 1930's #2Antique Primitive Folk Art Wooden Duck Decoy Glasseye LeatherAntique Primitive Folk Art Wooden Duck Decoy Glasseye Early 1900's Antique American Folk Art Primitive Hooked Rug Floral Pattern YqzAntique Folk Art American Grandfather Clock W/ Painted Carved Birds & Fruit'drunk Two Face' A Surreal Folk Art Mug/cup By Face Jug Maker Ron Dahline Three Mice In A Teacup Car Pottery Sculpture Folk Art By Face Jug Maker GraftonAntique Pacific Northwest Carved Cedar Wood Folk Art Shelf Wall HangingAntique Primitive Folk Art Trench Art Civil War Soldiers "hope & Love" CaneAntique "mississippi 1856" American Folk Art Landscape Oil Painting 12" X 10" NrVintage Folk Art Patriotic American Flags 1776-1976 Quilt 95x88"Folk Art Owl Sculpture Or Decoy?Antique American Folk Art Portrait Miniature Painting - By Abraham ParsellFlorida Seminole Indian Doll Lot Family Male Female Baby Palmetto Fiber Folk ArtVintage Folk Art Freshwater Pearl Covered Horned Ram Wildlife Animal SculptureVintage Naive Folk Art Watercolor Painting Underwater Seascape Signed Andre YqzGreat, Large, Hand Carved, 10" Swedish Folk Art, Dala Wooden HorseNorwegian Wood 16" Ambar - Rosemaling - Dragon Handles - Painted Folk Art Antique Treen Cottage String Or Wool Holder - Painted Folk ArtVintage Folk Art Primitive Metal Sculpture / Stencil Floral Dove Decor #7 YqzC 18th Century Folk Art Poem, July 4th "freedom", AmericanEarly 1900's Antique Primitive Patchwork Irish Chain Quilt Signed Folk Art YqzAntique Oil On Canvas Painting Folk Art Still Life Hanging Fish Sport Fishing Vintage Folk Art Hand Carved Two Toned Wood Bird Tree Sculpture Statue Cool YqzAntique Late 1800's Primitive English Sussex Garden Trug Basket Folk Art Nr YqzHuge Antique Primitive Salt Glazed 5g Stoneware Jug Blue Stinger Folk Art 14 YqzThornton Dial, Folk Art, Primitive Art, Self Taught ArtAntique Circa-1800's, American Folk Art Hand Painted Wood Steam Ship Sail Boats19thc Folk Art Oil Painting On Board Sheep In WinterWill Kirkpatrick Wek Signed Bird Decoy Folk Art Camden MaineAntique Dala Horse Very Old Swedish Folk Art