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Faux Naïf

Paul Klee
Boy with Toys (Knabe mit Spielsachen), 1940
Colored paste on paper, mounted on paper
Sheet: 29.2 x 20.6 cm (11.5 x 8.1 in.)
Mount: 40.4 x 31.2 cm (15.9 x 12.2 in.)
© 2023 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Faux Naïf is an artistic style characterized by its seemingly childlike and simple appearance, often challenging the viewer's assumptions about what is considered "sophisticated" in art. The term first appeared in art history during the mid-20th century when a number of artists began to explore this style in their pieces. Paul Klee, a Swiss-German artist, was one of the early pioneers of Faux Naïf. Another artist associated with the movement is Jean Dubuffet, a French artist who was interested in the idea of "outsider art" and sought to incorporate elements of this style into his practice. Dubuffet's pieces often feature bold, black lines and simple shapes, which are then filled in with bright, primary colors.

Other notable artists associated with Faux Naïf include Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, who were active in the 1980s. Haring used elementary lines and vivid colors to create politically charged pieces, while Basquiat's works often featured childlike drawings and seemingly simple symbols, while simultaneously addressing complex themes related to race, politics, and identity. More recently, Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara has also been associated with Faux Naïf, whose work often features cartoonish figures with exaggerated features, rendered in bright colors and bold lines. His work challenges traditional assumptions about what is considered "serious" art, and has been highly influential in contemporary art today.

Related categories



Political Issues

Symbolic Images/Objects

Color Study

20th Century Art

Cartoonish/Fictitious Characters

Art of the 1980s


Art of the 1990s

Race Issues

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Personal/Social Identity