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Picture of Academics, Pompiers, Official Artists and the Arrière-garde

Academics, Pompiers, Official Artists and the Arrière-garde

Defining Modern and Traditional in France, 1900-1960

Editor(s): Natalie Adamson, Toby Norris
Contributors: K C Kayas Caht, Keith Holz, Uhail Anell, Natalie Adamso, Toby Norris;

Book Description

Academics, Pompiers, Official Artists and the Arrière-garde: Defining Modern and Traditional in France, 1900-1960 is a collection of eight essays and a scholarly introduction by established and emerging scholars that challenges the continuing modernist slant of twentieth-century art history. The intention is not to perpetuate the vulgar opposition between avant-garde and reactionary art that characterized early-twentieth-century discourse and has marked much subsequent historical writing, but rather to investigate the complex relationship that both innovative and conservative artists had to the concept of tradition. How did artists and art critics conceive of tradition in relation to modernity? What was the role of an artist’s institutional positioning in determining expectations for his or her art? What light is thrown on the structure of the French art world by considering artists from abroad who worked in Paris? How did the war alter modernist and avant-garde paradigms and force crucial changes upon art production in the postwar period to 1960?

Particular attention is paid to the terms academic, pompier, official, and arrière-garde, originally used to situate the more conservative artists and works as second-rate or as the negative foil to the assumed radicalism of the avant-garde. By re-evaluating the work of artists pushed to the historical margins by such polemical descriptors, and by proposing alternative understandings of the aesthetic, economic, institutional and political factors that drive our ideas of avant-gardism and the modernist narrative in France, this collection of essays offers new routes to explore the terrain of twentieth-century art in France.


ISBN-13: 978-1-4438-1361-7
ISBN-10: 1-4438-1361-3
Date of Publication: 01/11/2009
Pages / Size: 255 / A5
Price: £39.99


Natalie Adamson is Lecturer in the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. She is a scholar of art, photography and cultural politics, especially in late nineteenth- and twentieth-century France. Her most recent publication is Painting, Politics, and the Struggle for the École de Paris, 1944–1964 (Ashgate Publishing, 2009).

Toby Norris is Assistant Professor of Art History at Assumption College, Worcester, MA. He works on the relationship between state patronage and the art market in France, focusing on the interwar period. Recent papers include “The Querelle du Réalisme and the Politicization of French Artists during the Great Depression,” in PART: Journal of Art History at the CUNY Graduate Center, March 2007, and “Underwriting Independence: The Art Market in France in the 1920s,” presented at the Association of Art Historians Conference, 2009.