In many parts of the world, the years after World War I witnessed an upsurge
of interest in the lives of those groups ordinarily relegated to the margins of
modern, industrial society. One consequence was the discovery of various
types of ‘‘primitive’’ and ‘‘folk’’ art. First collectors and artists, and later a
broader public, began to admire not only the art and artifacts produced by
tribal peoples of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, but also the work of
outsiders closer to home, such as children, immigrants, the insane, and the
rural folk of both the present and the past. Interest in these groups was, of
course, not new in the early twentieth century. The modern study of folklore,
for example, had its beginnings a century earlier, in the e√orts of German
and British scholars to unearth what they romanticized as the surviving
vestiges of ancient national
traditions.∞ The emergence of the Arts and Crafts
movement in 1880s England, and shortly thereafter in other parts of Europe
and in the United States, partook of the same nineteenth-century impulse to
idealize the national past; at the same time, it was shaped by an antimodern-
ist reaction against urban industrialization and promoted, ironically, by the
habits of domestic consumption among a rising
bourgeoisie.≤ And there
were even older antecedents to the interwar discovery of folk culture. In
Japan and China, for example, twentieth-century interest in the folk was
informed not only by earlier developments in Europe and the United States,
but also by much older, indigenous histories of curiosity among the literati
about rural customs, lore, and material
culture.≥ Nevertheless, the middle-
class intellectuals who embraced folk culture and folk art in 1920s Tokyo or
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