American Folk Art

The naive yet soulful images captured in American folk art are unique and now, quite rightly, appreciating in value and popularity.

American folk art began with the birth of a great nation. Early artists recorded life in their home town: people, historical events, objects that were integral and essential to their daily life. The first Americans brought their skills from their “mother” land. Styles, materials and content differed according to the background and culture of the artisan.

Most artists were self taught; a characteristic of American folk artists through to contemporary times. Originally members of utopian communal settlements, their objects were made from whatever was available to the artist and brought to life by the imagination of the creator.

Ceramics, pottery and chalk-ware figures were produced by highly skilled local potters, notably Germanic Pennsylvanians, using local clay and pigments.

Furniture originated from European designs. Often, early furniture was painted to cover up inferior woods or the fact that pieces were cobbled together from different woods. Shaker furniture typified craftsmanship, mass production and functionality.

Wooden sculptures by Asa Ames in the 19th century and later in the 20th century by Ulysses Davis and Elijah Pierce offer rare and curious examples of figures in 3D.

Textiles including quilts, coverlets and samplers proliferated in the Amish and Quaker communities. Rebecca Scattergood’s 19th century Kaleidoscope quilts and the later Sunburst or Crazy designs inspired by Japan and are highly collected today.

Carousel horses, circus wagons, wood carvings for ship decorations, colonial figureheads, stone monuments, grave markers, whirligig wind toys, hunting decoys, trade figures, signs, weathervanes, painted tinware, tinsel painting and rugs represent the rich diversity available to the collector.

Painting followed the example of the European tradition. Early artists were commissioned to paint houses, ships, workplaces and prosperous or famous personages; a show of prosperity and status. Early naive portraiture typified by the works of Winthrop Chandler, John Brewster Jr, Ammi Phillips and William Matthew Prior, later became more accomplished as seen in the works of John Singleton Copley, John Trumbull, Benjamin West and the marine and landscape painter Thomas Chambers. These artists were all self taught and the American folk artists of the modern day like Aminah Robinson, Malcah Zeldis, Vestie Davis, Eugene Von Bruenchenheim, Martin Ramirez, Earl Cunningham, Henry Darger and Bill Traylor continued their work in that tradition.

Collecting American Folk Art in our view is one of the most beautiful and satisfying ways of having a record of social and cultural history.