Contemporary French Civilization

A forum for encounters: modern art and its global sources in Cahiers d’Art

Contemporary French Civilization (2017), 42, (1), 47–73.

Abstract

When Cahiers d’Art first appeared in Paris in 1926, the new publication was quickly prized among the international cognoscenti for the diversity of its contents and the quality of its photographic reproductions. Founding editor Christian Zervos deftly intermixed a diverse range of subjects and approaches in the pages of his review. This essay examines how, why, and to what lasting effect the editor and his contributors interlaced European modern art with objects from non-Western cultures. Such rapprochements began as a formalist strategy, where objects met in opposition to aesthetic constraints imposed since the Renaissance; they evolved to emphasize a spiritual affinity or kinship between European artists and their cultural others. While focusing upon texts and images from the interwar period, the height of the review’s global influence and distribution, my intention is to suggest the wider cultural legacy of this visual and discursive space, in which the works of temporally and geographically distant cultures conversed across time and space.

Lorsque Cahiers d’Art parut à Paris en 1926, la nouvelle revue fut rapidement prisée par des connaisseurs internationaux pour la diversité de son contenu et la qualité de ses reproductions photographiques. L’éditeur fondateur, Christian Zervos, réalisa un habile dosage de sujets divers et d’approches différentes dans les pages de sa publication. Cet article examine comment et pourquoi l’éditeur et d’autres contributeurs juxtaposèrent l’art moderne européen et les objets extra-européens afin de considérer l’effet durable de cette juxtaposition. Au début, l’objectif de tels rapprochements fut formaliste, rassemblant des objets perturbateurs face aux contraintes esthétiques imposées depuis la Renaissance; avec le temps, il s’agissait de rencontres spirituelles, soulignant l’affinité ou la parenté entre l’artiste européen et ses autres culturels. L’accent est mis sur des textes et des images parus pendant l’entre-deux-guerres, lorsque la revue fut au sommet de son influence et sa distribution mondiale, à façon de signaler le legs culturel de cet espace visuel et discursif, dans lequel les œuvres des cultures lointaines dialoguèrent à travers le temps et l’espace.

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Kangaslahti, Kate