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In relation to painting this term can be applied in a number of ways.

It was first applied disparagingly in the 19th century to northern European and Italian painting of the 15th century and earlier.

The work of an artist like Henri Rousseau has been described as 'primitive'; in this sense the word implies an ostensibly child-like simplicity of approach.

Painters such as Picasso were inspired particularly by the sculpture of non-European cultures, such as African and Polynesian. Such work has been described by Europeans as 'primitive'.