History of Modern France


The Third French Republic 1870-1940. Part 9

19 January 2021


Zoom lecture



 Europe on the Brink:

The Art and Politics of the 1937 Paris Exposition

with Anne Catherine Abecassis

Robert Delaunay, Air, Iron, Water, 1937

French Railway Pavilion

From May to November 1937, the International Exposition of Art and Technology in Modern Life was held in Paris. The public discovered the pavilions of more than 50 different nations squeezed in between the Trocadero gardens and the Invalides.


The international situation of the late 1930s was tense. The pavilion of Nazi Germany confronted that of the Stalinist USSR. Civil war tore Spain apart. Paris artists including Picasso (with Guernica), Joan Miró and the American Alexander Calder responded to the request of the Republican government to create militant art for the Spanish pavilion in response to general Franco’s aggression.


For the first time also, modern artists and architects were widely employed in the official sections of the Exposition: Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Walter Gropius, Robert Mallet-Stevens, Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand, Fernand Léger and Raoul Dufy with his famous monumental mural La Fée Electricité. A new museum of modern art for Paris was built as part of the fair and a major demonstration for French women’s suffrage took place in the Exposition. All this and more will be the subject of our presentation of the last great Paris event before the outbreak of WWII.

The Soviet & German pavilions

at the 1937 Exhibition

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