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The Croatian Museum of Naïve Art


While conventional art galleries celebrate works by highly trained masters, the Croatian Museum of Naïve Art, located in Zagreb, houses works by self-taught artists isolated from the artistic mainstream.

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Nearby is the Croatian Museum of Naive Art. This charming collection features lyrical landscapes and village scenes painted in the mid-20th century by self-taught peasant artists. While some are on canvas, most are painted on glass — a cheap and readily available material that was easier to work on.

Naive art is created by untrained artists isolated from the artistic mainstream. They painted in a figurative way, while the rest of the artistic world embraced, increasingly, an abstract style.

Generalić, shown here in a self-portrait, was the father of the Croatian Naive Art movement. In 1953, he took his art to a show in Paris as a relative unknown. He was a huge hit, sold everything, and came home rich and famous.

These Croatian naïve artists were outsiders — sought out by art-world insiders to validate their notion that artistic ability was more than a learned skill — it was an inborn talent.

In places such as rural Croatia, medieval lifestyles survived well into the 20th century. You see a lot of winter scenes because these artists were farmers first…busy tending their fields through the growing season. They painted their village world, isolated from the modern world. In a complex age, many urbanites found this art refreshing for its brute simplicity.