Modern France


History of Modern France

The Third French Republic 1870-1940. Part 10


2 March 2022


Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Passion of Lines, 1941

A lithography from one of the last drawings produced by the artist

Art in France under the German Occupation. Part 1: Flight, 1940-1941

with Anne Catherine Abecassis


In occupied France, divided in two, cultural life was subject to the double censorship of Nazi Germany and the Vichy regime. And yet, cultural activity during the war was more abundant than ever. It was necessary to survive, to forget, to be entertained, to continue.


Facing propaganda, bans on works and artists, Aryanization, and spoliations, some artists resisted, others collaborated, most accommodated and composed with the situation, while others fled abroad – to Portugal or the US - or to the Free Zone, taking refuge in the countryside, or in the mountains.


The first part of our presentation will focus on the story of the artists who fled after the German invasion of France in May 1940 and their various destinations: Soutine hiding in Auxerre, Sonia Delaunay, Sophie Taeuber and Jean Arp in Grasse, Matisse on the Côte d'Azur. The Surrealists found themselves in the Villa Air-Bel in the suburbs of Marseille, under the protection of an American journalist, Varian Fry, supported by Peggy Guggenheim until she herself was forced to flee Europe in 1941. All continued to work despite hardship, and we will discover the artwork thus created in the tense and uncertain climate of war and occupation.

The Surrealists at villa Air-Bel, 1941

Jacqueline Breton, André Masson & André Breton with Varian Fry

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