Marie Jönsson-Harrison: Naïve and Outsider Art in Paintings, Prints and Sculptures

Australian painter, sculptor and printmaker Marie Jönsson-Harrison is known globally for her colourful and energetic “Naïve” and “Outsider” Art.

Outsider Art, writes Gloucestershire-based artist, lecturer and art therapist David Maclagan (as I have already mentioned):

refers, in a very open-ended way, to extraordinary works created by people who are in some way on the margins of society, and who, for whatever mixture of reasons, find themselves unable to fit into the conventional requirements – social and psychological, as well as artistic – of the culture they inhabit. What makes this work extraordinary is the fact that it is created by people who have no training and who are so far removed ‘normal’ expectations that they may not even think of themselves as ‘artists’, let alone as ‘Outsiders’. It is us who find their work remarkable, firstly because it seems to have no precedents in the art world with which we are familiar, and secondly because they seem to have none of the usual motives for making art (once summed up by Freud as ‘fame, money and the love of women’).

Outsider Art: From the Margins to the Marketplace by David Maclagan (2010, Reaktion Books)

Naïve Art is similar as it deals with creativity that emerges from/despite a lack of “formal training” and “professionalism”. Nathalia Brodskaya – an art historian from Saint Petersburg – writes that the origin of Naïve Art can be defined in two ways:

One is to reckon that it happened when naïve was first accepted as an artistic mode of status equal with every other artistic mode. That would date its birth to the first years of the twentieth century [with the self-taught artist Henri Rousseu]. The other is to apprehend naïve art as no more or no less than that, and to look back into human prehistory and to a time when all art was of a type that might be considered naïve – tens of thousands of years ago, when the first rock drawings were etched and when the first cave-pictures of bears and other animals were scratched out.

Naïve Art by Natalia Brodskaya (2014, Parkstone International)

Inspired by the spirit of these two broad artistic movements, Marie’s work deals with small characters in large stretches of the sea or sky or land, mostly caught in moments of merriment and entertainment. There is a distinctive naturalness and spontaneity in her style. “My naïve style reflects not a child’s view of the world as is often suggested,” the artist says on her content, “but rather a witty dialogue between the artist and the viewer on the foibles of life and the humour to be found in everyday situations. I fill my frame with detail reflecting the business of all our lives and suggesting that even the most commonplace subject is worth a closer study. The human condition is an inexhaustible pool of creativity.”


Marie Jonsson-Harrison


Born in Sweden, Marie migrated to Australia with her family in 1972. Her grandparents were famous circus artists and her father is Adelaide-based sculptor Ted Jönsson. She was a successful international model and won titles such as “Miss Summer Spain”, “South Australia Model of the Year” and “Australian Model of the Year”. She began painting while pregnant with her son.

“I have of course always been influenced by my father,” she says, “who encouraged me to paint and bought me canvases and art materials and made me a wonderful wooden box to store it all in.  Although we are polar opposites when it comes to our art style, my father’s art is macabre and dark and often made from junk and sometimes animal carcasses! My other influences are Grandma Moses who became famous at 78 as a naive artist and Henri Rousseau (felt very privileged to have been invited to take part in his 100 years anniversary exhibition in France) and the British humorous naïve artist Beryl Cook.”


Marie with a painting


Marie’s artworks are featured in corporate collections, private collections and several art books worldwide. They are also available as bed linen. In addition to producing a large store of paintings and prints, she has worked on several public sculptures – the largest creation spans 44 metres across at the entrance of the town of Balaklava (South Australia) called the Federation Gateway. This sculpture depicts a federation house with stories made from handmade ceramic and mosaic, telling some of the tales of the district over the last 100 years both in pictures and the written word on plaques.

Links: Website ( | Twitter (@Naiveview) | Instagram ( | Facebook (

Images used with permission.


Pottering at the Port


Teetotaler’s Club


Henri Rousseau 23 Percent




At the Drive-In


Holdfast at the Holdfast


Rhapsody of the Seas


Centenary of Federation


Bookstack Water Feature


Balloon Wedding


Celebrating Life after the Fire


Public Sculpture for Jamestown


A Bus Full of Art


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