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When New York looks at the School of Paris (1930-1950)

Quand New-York regarde l’École de Paris (1930-1950)

Reception, rereadings, and appropriations

Réception, relectures, appropriations

*  *  *

Published on Tuesday, May 25, 2021


The dialogue that the Musée de l’Orangerie has chosen to establish between the School of Paris painter Chaïm Soutine (1893–1943) and the American Abstract Expressionist Willem de Kooning (1904-1997), affords researchers the opportunity to explore the impact on the then-nascent American Abstract Expressionism movement by the art produced by European artists living in Paris during the interwar period. This symposium aims to revisit the sources to better understand this history and encourages candidates to participate in a review of what was visible of European art in the United States before 1950. It also aims to examine the conditions of the birth of American Abstract Expressionism in its relationship to the European, and particularly French, figurative tradition, in the specific context of the Second World War.


Online Symposium, Monday, November 29, 2021 / Tuesday, November 30, 2021
On the occasion of the exhibition Chaïm Soutine/Willem de Kooning, painting embodied Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris, September 15, 2021 - January 10, 2022


The dialogue that the Musée de l’Orangerie has chosen to establish between the School of Paris painter Chaïm Soutine (1893–1943) and the American Abstract Expressionist Willem de Kooning (1904-1997), affords researchers the opportunity to explore the impact on the then-nascent American Abstract Expressionism movement by the art produced by European artists living in Paris during the interwar period. Like Soutine – whose expressive force of painting marked the post-war generation of artists and whose work was particularly visible in the United States between the 1930s and 1950s – other European artists, painters and sculptors, settled in Paris and associated with the eclecticmovement of the School of Paris, also played a decisive role in the emergence of what has been called American Abstract Expressionism.

After long decades of asserting the “triumph” of the New York School and its autonomy, a historiographical review seems not only possible but also desirable. The univocal account of the independence of American art from Surrealism seems to have been the “dominant” explanation. Entire movements and their circulation may have been ignored, considered irrelevant, and deemed “local” or “peripheral.”

A new generation of historians has globalized its sources and questioned the binary model that constitutes the center/periphery alternative. They have relied less on monographic and focused approaches, and have decentered their purpose. These works show, as far as our subject is concerned, that the New York School did not “triumph” before the mid-1960s, and that its “autonomy” must be put into perspective.

This symposium aims to revisit the sources to better understand this history and encourages candidates to participate in a review of what was visible of European art in the United States before 1950, in terms of exhibitions, journals, and private collections.

It aims to examinethe conditions of the birth of American Abstract Expressionism in its relationship to the European, and particularly French, figurative tradition, in the specific context of the Second World War, both before and after the United States entered the war at the end of 1941, based on individual artistic trajectories.

Unlike Surrealism, whose contributions to the American art scene have been widely documented (Paris-New York, Surrealism in Exile), we do not currently have an inventory of the contributions of European figurative art, as united, albeit artificially, under the banner of the “School of Paris” to American Abstract Expressionism. The contributions to this colloquium will help to define its contours.

Historical context

Before 1941

From the 1900s until the dawn of the First World War, a whole generation of artists came from all over Europe to study, work and live in Paris. They formed what is conveniently but not unambiguously called “The School of Paris” (A. Warnod, 1925) – a “school” with no real unity of style or community of shared learning. Most of the artists fled from social, political or religious situations that were almost always oppressive, making it impossible for them to practice their art freely. During the interwar period, all of them brought an unprecedented dynamism to the Parisian art scene, essentially centered in the Montparnasse district, where they would remain. Exiled, uprooted and insearch of a new artistic dynamism, each of these foreign artists brought the strength of their personal destiny to a Paris that had become a world city, in a France experienced as a land of freedom, especially for Jews. The rapid success of some of them triggered awave of xenophobia, often anti-Semitic, particularly in France. At the same time, the United States saw the opening of the great museums we know today and the building of the famous collections that would be housed within them, often at the initiative of women. The long-standing complex American artists had about Europe was in the process of dissipating, while a social realist art sought to unite artists and viewers.

After 1941

Only a part of these Paris-based European artists went into exile in the United States in the 1930s, fleeing the economic crisis and the prevailing anti-communism, leaving behind the quarrels surrounding abstract art. They were joined, starting in 1941, by those fleeing the anti-Jewish laws (October 4, 1940). This was the case for Marc Chagall(1941-48), Ossip Zadkine (1941-45), Moïse Kisling (1940-46), Jacques Lipchitz (1940-1963) and Mané-Katz(1941-45), but not for Chaïm Soutine, Chana Orloff, Michel Kikoïne or Amedeo Modigliani. Almost all of them had their work exhibited in American galleries and museums, commented on and reviewed in magazines and newspapers, commissioned and sold to collectors and acquired by American museums.


In order to capture the diversity of the trajectories and identities of European artists settled in the United States, and their differentiated contribution to the American scene, papers are expected on:

1. The life and artistic conditions of the French artists in the United States who had been part of the School of Paris adventure and ther eafter exiled to the United States: names of the settled artists (quantitative and qualitative evaluation of their experiences), location of European communities in the United States (East and West Coast), famous studios (nature of teaching, attendance), and the particular situation of European Jewish artists and their relationships with the American Jewish community.

For example: Originally from Lithuania, Jacques Lipchitz moved to Paris in 1909, where he attended the Académie des Beaux-Arts and then the Académie Julian. His sculpture was bought in 1922 by Dr. Barnes, who commissioned him to create bas-reliefs for his property in Merion, Pennsylvania. His first important solo exhibition was held in 1937 in New York (Brummer Gallery). He emigrated to the United States in 1941 and became an American citizen in 1948. The MoMA organized a retrospective for him in 1954.

To examine the ways and mechanisms of appropriation and rereading of European art by American artists, contributions are expected on:

2. The reception by American artists themselves, critics, collectors of French art during the interwar period and afterthe war: American artists’ written and oral statements about the legacy of European art affiliated with “The School of Paris” (original unpublished or published sources; diaries); publications on French art in the United States (number, type), survey of American criticism on the subject (positions of major names), critical theories on notions of figure and formlessness, painting of the “flesh,” and on gestural painting practice.

For example: In his article entitled “The Fall of Paris,” art critic Harold Rosenberg (1906-1978) described the shift of the artistic center from Paris to New York (Partisan Review. December 1940). He is also credited with identifying and coining the name “Action Painting” for the first time in 1952. But we have remained wrongly confined to his narrative. Other available sources would allow us to widen the focus.

To understand the direct and indirect consequences on American art of these exiled artists and to assess their visibility, contributions are expected on:

3. The repercussions of these exchanges on public and private American collections: exhibitions, notable acquisitions in European and French art in particular, during the period concerned (before and after 1941), comparative studies of the American market, and the presence of French galleries, famous sales, ratings, and prices.

For example: The exhibition “Painting in France, 1939 - 1946,” organized in 1946 by the Association Française d’Action Artistique at the Whitney Museum in New York, which then traveled to many American cities.

Submission guidelines

Contributions must be sent

before July, 15th, 2021

in the form of aparagraph of 500 words, accompaniedby a short CV to the following address: scarlett.reliquet@musee-orsay.fr

Once the Scientific Committee has made its selection, a message will be sent to you confirming that your proposal has been accepted and informing you of the terms of participation and publication.

Other informations

For more information :  https://www.musee-orangerie.fr/en/event/online-conference

This colloquium has received the generous support from the Terra Foundation for American Art

Scientific Committee

  • Claire Bernardi, Chief Curator - Paintings, Musée d’Orsay;
  • Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel, Professor of Digital Humanities at the University of Geneva;
  • Scarlett Reliquet, Cultural Programme Officer at the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée de l’Orangerie;
  • Pierre Wat, Professor at the University Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne.


  • Musée de l'orangerie, Jardin des Tuileries - Place de la Concorde
    Paris, France (75)


  • Thursday, July 15, 2021


  • Chaïm Soutine, Willem de Kooning, école de Paris, expressionnisme abstrait américain, musée de l'orangerie, seconde guerre mondiale


  • Scarlett RELIQUET
    courriel : colloque [dot] rosabonheur [at] musee-orsay [dot] fr

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Scarlett RELIQUET
    courriel : colloque [dot] rosabonheur [at] musee-orsay [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« When New York looks at the School of Paris (1930-1950) », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, May 25, 2021, https://calenda.org/879465

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