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The Art of Primitive Peoples

    Naturevolume 135page927 (1935) | Download Citation



    AN exhibition of the art of primitive peoples, /JL which will remain open until the end of July, is now on view at the Burlington Fine Arts Club, 17 Savile Row, London, W.I. It covers a sufficiently wide field to afford an opportunity for comparing and contrasting the ideals and achievement of the aesthetic sense among peoples of a widely differing cultural history and geographical environment, and of estimating how far, if at all, a common element is to be discerned in the development of artistic principles in varied conditions of race, technical skill and material employed as the medium of expression. While technique varies considerably in the specimens shown in the present exhibition, it is striking at a first glance how little, relatively, the tools employed, whether of stone, shell or metal, affect the ‘polish’ of the finished product. Hence, while it is true that this collection contains some of the finest known examples of so-called primitive art -it is indeed a possible criticism of the exhibition that it includes so little that is crude, but at the same time scientifically instructive-the general level of execution is higher than might reasonably be expected. There are few specimens that fail to attain the highest possible degree of finish of which the artist's intention was susceptible. The decorative designs, for example, applied in Polynesia to nearly every object of wood, even in daily use, such as the paddle from Austral Islands (No. 132) or the Maori tattooed head (No. 261), though carved with stone or shell, are often so delicately executed as to have an apparent superficial texture of lacework.

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