Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Memory, Precisely Recalled

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Memory, Precisely Recalled

Article excerpt

The French "naive" painter Henri (Le Douanier) Rousseau was greatly admired by early 20th-century modern artists - particularly Picasso. Rousseau's self-taught paintings had a striking authenticity. He was uncluttered by the pretensions of academic art - or by false modesty. He told Picasso, "You and I are the greatest painters of our time, you in the Egyptian style, I in the modern."

The seriousness with which Rousseau's art has been admired is, in fact, closely linked to his perceived modernity. So-called modern artists frequently tapped what has been variously known as the naive, the primitive, the untaught.

In the early 1980s, London's Portal Gallery compiled a book of its artists and called them "idiosyncratic." It was an apt title for a multitude of individualistic visions. The book showed how acceptable "the naive" had become as serious art.

One of the painters illustrated was Reg Cartwright. He had turned to full-time painting in 1974, when he and his family moved out of the city and settled in a Victorian house in a small country village. …

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