Neo-primitivism was an art movement in Russia that took its name from Aleksandr Shevchenko’s 31-page pamphlet Neo-primitivism in 1913. In that pamphlet, Shevchenko proposed a new style of modern art that combines elements of Cézanne, Futurism, and Cubism with traditional Russian ‘folk art’.
At the start of the 20th century, Russia was mainly a peasant country that was permeated with folk aesthetics. Churches, homes, and cathedrals were filled with icons. Embroidered towels, wooden houses with engraved window casings, painted clay toys, home-made mats and rugs, jambs and lintels– all this and more was part of the daily life of both urban and rural families. Made by the hands, Russians did not consider these objects as works of art.
Mikhail Larionov and Natalia Goncharova were the first Russian artists that perceived and valued the artistic merits of Russia creativity. Natalia’s choice of styles from everyday peasant life distinguished her work in the late 1900s. Mikhail’s brutal Venuses appeared in the early 1910s. His sources were the images that were written on Russian fences and walls, often accompanied by writings of an unprintable nature.
The aesthetics of seemingly unworthy of art was incarnated by these artists via the prism of their own creative perception. Entering the Russian art in the late 1900s and early 1910s, they overturned the traditional concepts of the impossible and possible.