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Primitivism in modern art designates a range of practices and accompanying modes of thought that span the period from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century and cut across manifold artistic styles and groups. This entry presents instances of Primitivism from this period that are representative of its features. Modern artistic Primitivism refers, above all, to the ways in which Western artists valorized and drew upon aspects of so-called ‘primitive’ art and cultures in their works, ideas and lifestyles. They employed selective formal and thematic elements that they believed were characteristic of the arts and cultures of not only small-scale, native, non-Western peoples, but also of larger-scale, more highly organized non-Western societies, Western pre-Renaissance and non-classical styles and European vernacular means of expression. Even more frequently, these artists freely intermixed such elements and invented others that suited their conceptions of the ‘primitive’, generating hybrid forms and cultural features.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationRoutledge Encyclopedia of Modernism
EditorsStephen J. Ross
StatePublished - 2016


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