Modern France


History of Modern France

The Third French Republic 1870-1940. Part 12

 Zoom lecture




20 April 2022

Henri Matisse, The Sword Swallower (Jazz sheet 13), 1947

Modern Masters after the War: Picasso, Matisse, Braque & Léger


with Chris Boïcos



The immediate post-war period witnessed the emergence on both sides of the Atlantic of a new generation of rebellious abstract painters, like Pollock or Dubuffet, who considered pre-war modern art irrelevant to the concerns of a world traumatized by war. Modern art had to reinvent itself by going back to ground zero.


The artists who had made their reputations as far back as the beginning of the century could not renounce their own history and techniques as easily as the new artists. Yet each, in his own way, responded to the era by adapting their style and their themes to the new historical environment. Though considered old in 1944 – Matisse was 75, Picasso and Léger 63, Braque 62 – these established masters nevertheless produced some of their freshest and most vital work at what for all, but Picasso, was the end of their career.


Our presentation will examine how the Matisse cut-outs, Picasso’s Women of Algiers, Léger’s Constructors or Braque’s Studios and Birds establish a profound dialogue between past and present, within their own career, but also between the post-war world and the artist’s visions of the history of art and civilization.

Fernand Léger, Builders with Rope, 1950

New York, Guggenheim Museum

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