6 Styles Of Traditional American Folk Art Painting You Need To Know Now

by Gunjan Tripathi 

American Folk art showcases cultural identities and traditions. It reflects a unification of technique, aesthetics, and ethnic values through creative expression. Different nations have their own distinct folk painting traditions practiced by their indigenous groups.

American folk painting culture came into existence with the rise of the Industrial Revolution in America in the 19th century. Common people filled their homes with art showcasing objects of everyday use and thus gave birth to the art of common man. This amateur, self-taught, and non-conventional art style is recognized as American Folk Art. 

Distressed Wood Style Anchor 1 By Fab Funky American Folk Art
Distressed Wood Style Anchor 1 by Fab Funky

Painting, pottery, sculpture, woodcraft, textile art, metalwork and others together can be included in folk art. Folk art represents everyday life, family, celebration, community, religion, etc.

Sharply defined symmetrical portraits, neat and geometrically formed agrarian landscapes and vibrant decorative motifs are outlining features of American folk-art paintings. 

In the 1920’s, American folk-art paintings caught the attention of art collectors whose patronage provided it much needed recognition. These paintings, depicting the daily life of America in the 19th century are now a part of valuable collections of museums across the world.

Art prints of American folk paintings are also popular among art lovers. Let us explore some popular subjects of folk art paintings in America. 


Red Fox Collage Iii By Galapon, Nikki
Red Fox Collage III by Galapon, Nikki

Portrait is a common subject among American folk artists. The compositions are flat, structured, and symmetrical. Along with human portraits, we see a large number of creative animal portraits in watercolour and gouache.

Textile Inspired Folk Art

Linen Trees Ii By Zarris, Chariklia
Linen Trees Ii by Zarris, Chariklia

Bold, vibrant, textile-inspired motifs are prevalent in American folk paintings. These elaborately ornamental designs have an eccentric primitive aesthetic attached to them.

Applique Work

United Patterns By Vess, June Erica
United Patterns by Vess, June Erica

Beautiful appliques are a common sight in American folk art history, not just in textiles but also in paintings.

Floral Art Paintings

Floral Patchwork I By Meagher, Megan
Floral Patchwork I by Meagher, Megan

Floral and botanical paintings in strong colours and patterned surfaces are a recurring theme in American folk paintings.

Agrarian Landscapes

Pastoral Charm I By Meagher, Megan
Pastoral Charm I by Meagher, Megan

Artists since the dawn of time have been inspired by their immediate surroundings. Folk art in America developed from common country households and therefore we see an extensive inclusion of agrarian landscapes. These works can be characterised by an absence of expressive brushwork, flatness, and overall linearity. 


Ivory Falcon At Rest By Larivey, Chuck
Ivory Falcon At Rest by Larivey, Chuck

One can also see highly illustrative landscapes by American folk artists. 

Folk paintings may be considered as naive, primitive, rural, plain or provincial but the unique skills and particular vision existing in these paintings continues as a living cultural tradition.