Decorative Art, Folk Art…When did it begin?

by Neadeen Masters on October 22, 2011

From the beginning of time, man had a desire to make his surroundings more attractive. Throughout history we have seen evidence of this. Man has decorated the tools and everyday objects he has live with in order to personalize his surroundings and claim them as his own.

Cave painting

Cave Painting - Chinese Horse - Art Apprentice Online

So why can’t we say that Decorative Art is the earliest form of art? If we return to the prehistoric times, the cavemen decorated their caves with motifs that can still be found in certain parts of the world. Isn’t that decorative painting? As the dictionary suggests, the word “decorate” means to beautify, adorn, embellish or enhance. The keyword in describing this art form is “decorative.” Today, we decorate our homes and appartments; we adorn ourselves with brand name clothing and jewelry, hats and scarves and shoes. We beautify our parks and public spaces, we embellish our paintings and we enhance our personal beauty!

So who started it? Was it cave men?  Hmmmmm? Let’s think about this…Just like rich folk who collect ‘High Art’ or what is known as ‘Fine Art’, the average folk had the same desire to own beautiful things too! Decorating our personal ‘stuff’ and spaces in a big part of the ‘good’ life. Many of these painted pieces were used for practical purposes, after all, money is often tight and when you don’t have a whole lot of money, you need to be very practical. They decorated items and used painting as a way to record events, tell stories and express their creative ideas. They were used to decorate furniture, tinware, ceramics, walls, tiles and fabrics—just about anything else that didn’t stand still.

Hand Painted Folk Art from Holland - Art Apprentice Online

Hand Painted Folk Art from Holland - Art Apprentice Online

Each culture, especially those of the old European Countries has not one but several unique styles of Decorative Art, or what we sometimes refer to as “folk art.” Each style represents a particular region of a country. Above is a painted furniture sample from Holland. Still very popular in many communities, the art forms are and styles passed from generation to generation as a reliable way of perpetuating the traditions and preserving cultural heritage. These pieces of painted furniture are highly collectable.

Handpainted Folk Art from Holland - Art Apprentice Online

Handpainted Folk Art from Holland - Art Apprentice Online

Today, these simple art forms have evolved and matured. Many contemporary folk artists use modern paints like acrylic, rather than oil paints. They enjoy painting with acrylics because of the faster drying times and lower costs. The “artisans,” who have perfected their technical beauty are considered specialists and highly respected artists. So many of us have our family roots in the European cultures, be they Dutch, Norwegian, French, German and English or else. Somewhere there may be a family member in your family history who knew of these charming and beautiful art forms. You may know or have heard some of these folk art styles referred to as Tole Painting.

To learn the basic painting techniques and stroke work necessary to create folk art painting styles, check out our online art classes that concentrate on teaching the beginner the fundamentals of stroke painting as well as many other skills to create simple ethnic decorative art pieces.

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