History of Modern France

Part 13

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

5:00-6:40 pm Paris time

 Zoom lecture 

Jean Dubuffet, Dhôtel nuancé d'abricot, 1947

Paris, MNAM, Centre Pompidou

The Art World in Postwar Paris:

The Triumph of Abstraction and “Art Brut”, 1945-1960

with Anne Catherine Abecassis


"France has been liberated from the Krauts; it should now be liberated from the jerks. (Archives of the artist Wols)


After the war, everything had to be rebuilt in France, and above all the country’s cultural and symbolic image. Paris had suffered not only from the German occupation but also from collaboration with the Nazi occupiers. The former “world capital art” had to reinvent itself and recreate its image.


The artists who flocked again to Paris in the immediate postwar period questioned the role of art but also the postwar human condition, so deeply shaken by the trauma of the Second World War. Abstract art seemed a new way to start over by directly expressing the emotional climate and existential doubts of the moment.


The Second School of Paris of 1944-1960 witnessed the triumph of a new generation of painters - Dubuffet, De Staël, Poliakoff, Vieira da Silva, the COBRA group - among others, who militantly rejected pre-war geometry and the legacy of Cubism. Painting had to begin all over again from ground zero: Gestural brushwork, encrusted canvases and the spontaneous and lyrical use of color, but also a fascination with graffiti and the work of the untutored or insane, signaled this brave fresh beginning.

Serge Poliakoff, Grey and Black Composition, 1951

Paris, MNAM, Centre Pompidou

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