HISTORY OF MODERN FRANCE
Black France 3
29 November 2023
Black France 3
From Olympia to Art Deco:
Blacks in French Art, 1850-1940
The third lecture in our new Wednesday series
with Chris Boïcos
A major exhibition held at the Musée d’Orsay in 2019 – The Black Model from Géricault to Matisse – revealed for the first time the importance of the black figure in the work of a wide variety of French artists and illustrators of the modern era from Edouard Manet to Paul Collin.
The exhibition will be used as the basis on which to examine the increasing presence of black figures – in metropolitan France, from the Caribbean, Africa, but also from the USA – in French art, illustration, sculpture, decoration and architecture of the later 19th and the early 20th centuries. We will see how the build-up of France’s colonial empire in Africa promoted images of the black figure and how the discovery and importation of African artefacts – masks & sculpture - launched a tremendous fashion for all things African in the art and design of the Art Deco era (1925-1940).
Though black imagery and artefacts were widely appropriated and used by French and foreign artists in France, there are very few artists of color in this era. Whereas important black figures emerged in the French literary, educational and political spheres, hardly any were encouraged, for social and economic reasons, to pursue an art education. We will focus on some of the very few, all foreign, including American artists Henry Ossawa Tanner and Loïs Mailou Jones and the Cuban Surrealist Wilfredo Lam, who did have an art career in metropolitan France in the first decades of the 20th century.
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