The American artistic migration to Paris between the Great War and the Great Depression

Turner, Elizabeth Hutton, Mcintire Department of Art, University of Virginia
Balge, Marjorie, Mcintire Department of Art, University of Virginia
Barolsky, Paul, Mcintire Department of Art, University of Virginia
Wilson, Richard, School of Architecture, University of Virginia

The American Artistic Migration to Paris between the Great War and the Great Depression asserts that Paris during the decade of the Twenties was the critical time and place to consider the distinctions between the 19th and 20th century artistic migrations and ultimately the new function or meaning of artistic expatriation in the 20th century.

The end of the Great War spawned a migration of artists as large as that which occurred in the 1880s and 1890s, but it was a generation distinct in character from previous ones. The generation of the Twenties followed more independent exhibition patterns and they also pursued a wider range of stylistic choices. Though Americans still looked to Paris as a training ground, a center for study and exhibition, the post-war generation discovered that new recognition had been accorded American art in Paris.

The most significant variable affecting the American artist in post-war Paris was a profound change in the outlook of the host country itself. In particular, French attitudes toward modern America impacted greatly upon the critical climate for American art in post-war Paris. To the surprise of Americans who had previously assumed an apologetic stance vis-a' -vis the industrial, technical and popular biases of their culture, the French embraced these very values they associated with the New World. French critics repeatedly expressed the desire to see the spirit of modern America they had come to need, respect and admire during the war.

While the conservative American artists and students attempted to maintain the traditional approach to Paris, the modernists proved more responsive to the new appreciation of America abroad. Six artists: Gertrude Stein, Jules Pascin, Adolf Dehn, Alexander Calder, Man Ray and Gerald Murphy stand as types for the American modernist experience in post-war Paris. The lost generation, much like Gertrude Stein, mourned the loss of the pre-war avant-garde. Others who saw themselves as a new generation, such as Man Ray, discovered and reveled in a milieu which encouraged/legitimized modes of artistic experiment.

By end of the decade the migration to Paris was not seen in a positive light in America. Nativist responses from critics such as Henry McBride made it difficult to translate recognition in Paris into prestige on the homefront. As suddenly and rapidly as the onslaught of the Great Depression, the untimely death of Pascin in 1930 brought an end to the bohemia most American artists identified with Paris. Alexander Calder emerged as a phoenix rising out of that debacle. Celebrated in a critical climate favorable to modern technology, Calder's wire inventions grafted something new, something distinctly American onto an older studio tradition and ultimately gave modern America a remarkably accurate reflection of herself.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Expatriate artists--France--Paris, Artists--United States, Paris (France)--Intellectual life--20th century
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