Naïve art is a classification of art that is often characterized by a childlike simplicity in its subject matter and technique. While many naïve artists appear, from their works, to have little or no formal art training, this is often not true.
The term naïve art is often seen as outsider art which is without a formal (or little) training or degree. While this was true before the twentieth century, there are now academies for naïve art. Naïve art is now a fully recognized art genre, represented in art galleries worldwide.
The characteristics of naïve art are an awkward relationship to the formal qualities of painting. Difficulties with drawing and perspective that result in a charmingly awkward and often refreshing vision, strong use of pattern, unrefined color, and simplicity rather than subtlety are all supposed markers of naïve art. It has, however, become such a popular and recognizable style that many examples could be called pseudo-naïve.
Whereas naïve art ideally describes the work of an artist who did not receive formal education in an art school or academy, for example Henri Rousseau or Alfred Wallis, 'pseudo naïve' or 'faux naïve' art describes the work of an artist working in a more imitative or self-conscious mode and whose work can be seen as more imitative than original.
"Primitive art" is another term often applied to art by those without formal training, but is historically more often applied to work from certain cultures that have been judged socially or technologically "primitive" by Western academia, such as Native American, subsaharan African or Pacific Island art (see Tribal art). This is distinguished from the self-conscious, "primitive" inspired movement primitivism. Another term related to (but not completely synonymous with) naïve art is folk art.
There also exist the terms "naïvism" and "primitivism" which are usually applied to professional painters working in the style of naïve art (like Paul Gaugin, Mikhail Larionov, Paul Klee, Sergey Zagraevsky etc.)
Many art critics view the term "naïve art" as a condescending reference to academically untrained painters - alternatively "vernacular art" can be used.