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About this term

Source: Oxford University Press

Term used with reference to art that celebrates certain values or forms regarded as primal, ancestral, fertile and regenerative. While the term ‘primitive’ was used at one time to include the arts of all of Africa, Asia and Pre-Columbian America, it was later used mostly in relation to art from Africa and the Pacific Islands. By the late 20th century it had lost most of its currency: this was in part due to the fact that the interest that Western artists had taken in ethnic arts, particularly from c. 1905 to c. 1935, had itself led to the beginning of a more formalized study of this subject by both anthropologists and art historians; scholars’ research in this field allowed non-Western arts to be seen and appreciated more easily within their own context, rather than in secondary relation to the arts of the West or as ‘primitive’.

Roger Cardinal
From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press


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