Folk art

1850 - ...

Term used broadly to describe those arts that exist outside the received canons of taste established by or on behalf of the leaders of a given society. Implicit in such a definition is the existence of a society that is sufficiently complex to permit more than one level of cultural activity to thrive. The art of the élite may be dominant, but it is usually a minority aesthetic. In countries or regions that have at some time formed part of larger political entities, the élite culture may have dwindled while the folk culture has developed as a symbol of nationalism. Folk art exists in clearly defined geographical regions among peoples with shared characteristics such as language or religion. Tradition usually provides some component, not only in terms of content, subject-matter or use but also in structure, craft techniques, tools and materials. Folk art is as inseparable from folk building as it was inseparable from daily life. The ‘applied’ or ‘decorative’ arts (e.g. furniture) have their ‘folk’ equivalents.
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© Grove Art / OUP

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