A feature of American art from its beginnings was the wide prevalence of folk art. In early times, there were few art schools, and most artists were largely self-taught. Many were artisans--carpenters, house painters, sign and carriage painters--who never graduated into professionalism. But they had certain qualities that more sophisticated artists had lost. The primitive artist cut straight to the heart
of things. Instinctively, without theorizing, he realized that art is not the photographic copying of nature but the creation of a pictorial equivalent for nature. He retained the craftsman's respect for the physical substance and structure of the work of art. His eye was an innocent one, concerned more with the object itself than its illusory appearances. He had an innate gift for simplification, for recording the essentials. And if he was gifted, he had an instinctive feeling for form and color and line, and the patterns they created. So his art, within definite limits, represented something sound and pure that had been lost in the complexities of culture.