Term used to describe the fascination of early modern European artists with what was then called primitive art – including tribal art from Africa, the South Pacific and Indonesia, as well as prehistoric and very early European art, and European folk art
Such work has had a profound impact on modern Western art. The discovery of African tribal art by Picasso around 1906 was an important influence on his painting in general, and was a major factor in leading him to cubism.
Primitivism also means the search for a simpler more basic way of life away from Western urban sophistication and social restrictions. The classic example of this is artist Paul Gauguin’s move from Paris to Tahiti in the South Pacific in 1891. Primitivism was also important for expressionism, including Brücke.
As a result of these artists’ interest and appreciation, what was once called primitive art is now seen as having equal value to Western forms and the term primitive is avoided or used in quotation marks.