From Impressionism to Surrealism: How Japan, Africa and Islam Influenced Major 19th and 20th Century French Art Movements

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Course Information
Discipline(s): 
Francophone Studies
Art History
Terms offered: 
Fall
Credits: 
3
Language of instruction: 
French
Contact Hours: 
45
Description: 

“If, on a sunny morning at the beginning of the century, Matisse hadn’t stopped in front of an antique shop on Rue de Rennes and admired a few statues of African art, one of the most important pictorial revolutions of the 20th century, and of art history as a whole, would never have happened.”

When considering the history of modern art, the question of its origins is often neglected. However, it is indeed possible to distinguish certain sources of influence in order to reveal some of the essential moments that brought art into modernity.

From the end of the 19th century, artists hoped to grasp modernity by freeing themselves from the traditional model of representation. This model was based Greek statues, in which the ultimate goal was imitation. To break with the secular, western tradition, and in order to renew their formal language, these artists looked for inspiration outside of the traditional framework: Japanese prints, African art, and Islamic decorative arts, which would all become models of reference and sources of major inspiration for artistic rebirth through the 1920s.

After having defined modernism, this course will be based around three approaches. Each section will be introduced with a presentation on the specific types of art mentioned in each region:

  1. The Far East and Beginning of Modernity in the 19th century
    After 1860, the Far East (and especially Japan) became a major source of inspiration for French painters who were in the midst of revolutionizing their art. With the opening of the Meji, Franco-Japanese relations intensified. In addition to other marvels, European artists discovered the prints of painters like Ukiyo-e (Pictures of a Floating World) at the London exhibition in 1862 and the Paris exhibitions in 1867, 1878, and 1889. They also discovered private art collectors such as Samuel Bing and Félix Bracquemond. The Goncourt brothers also published a collection of Hokusai’s work in 1896.
  1. Manet and Japonism
    In 1868, in his portrait of Emile Zola, Manet marks Japan’s presence in artistic and literary circles by placing a Japanese-style screen and a print next to the founder of naturalism. In his works, Manet uses familiar techniques first introduced by Ukiyo-e: subjects whose bodies are cut off by the frame, the suppression of the horizon to obtain a flat plane (En bateau, 1874) or the intrusion of vertical objects, which affect the painting’s unity (Le Chemin de Fer, 1873)
  2. The Impressionists and Japanese Prints (series, framing, perspective) – Claude Monet, Cezanne, Degas, Van Gogh, Toulouse Lautrec, Gaugin and the “Nabis” (Bonnard, Denis, Vuillard)
  1. Primitivism in Modern Art

    1. With the rise of 20th century painters, so too came an interest in African Art, which would heavily influence Fauvism, German Expressionism, and Cubism. Primitivism gave birth to modern art. Young artists were inspired by Van Gogh and Paul Gaugin, and found new artistic horizons (notably in the Far East and Polynesia), as well as in the themes of the cosmos, nature, and the preservation of civilization.

      1. African Art: A 20th Century Pictorial Revolution
      2. Primitivism and Fauvism (Matisse, Vlaminck, Derain, Braque)
      3. The German Expressionists: simplification of pictorial technique and expression (Kandinsky, Macke, Marc, Nolde)
      4. Cubism (Picasso and Braque)
      5. Modern sculpture (Brancusi, Giacometti, Modigliani)
      6. Primitivism and the subconscious (Dada and Surrealism)
      7. Primitivist tendencies in abstract art: the search for “basic” forms (Kanidnksy, Malevitch, Kupka, Mondrian)
  2. Decorative Arts and Islam
    For many years, painters found inspiration in the Far East. However, this was an imagined Orient. It was only after the first artist visits, such as that of Delacroix, that Islamic art became more than an orientalist fantasy and began to inspire painters in the use of color, which would create major shifts in their representation of space and flat surfaces (Renoir, Kees Van Dogen, Matisse, Klee). Further shifts occurred as a result of Islamic Art’s decorative nature. Artists, especially Matisse, would soon realize that eastern art was not that of the Western descriptions since the Renaissance, seen as inferior, a mere accessory in comparison to the great European works of painting and sculpture, but rather the vehicle for the most sacred and symbolic messages art can engender, something sacred, mystical, and profound. Finally, because much of Islamic art banned the representation of evil, European artists began to dedicate themselves to the expression of happiness (Renoir, Matisse).

    1. Orientalism (Gros, Ingres, Chasseriau, Delacroix before 1832)
    2. Color (Delacroix after 1832, Kees Van Dogen, Camoin, Marquet, Matisse)
    3. Perspective and the consideration of flat surfaces (Klee and the Berber rugs, Matisse)
    4. “Major” vs. “Minor” art (Matisse et the Chapelle du Rosaire, Fauvist ceramics and Picasso)
    5. Abstraction and geometry (Kupka, Kandinksy)

Historical period of study: from Delacroix and Manet to Abstract Art

 

Attendance policy: 

Attendance is mandatory. Please note that absences and tardies will prevent you from fully understanding the material of the course and lowers your final grade. In case of illness, please alert your professor and the academics coordinator.

Learning outcomes: 

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Analyze a work of modern art
  • Analyze art history texts in French
  • Use specific vocabulary related to art history in oral converation and in written work
Method of presentation: 

Courses will be taught in French, and will include lectures based on course texts and illustrations. A collection of documents (workbook) will be given to each student at the beginning of the semester (see the bibliography at the end of the document). We will focus works of art and the ways in which we think about them, and numerous (mandatory) museum visits will complete this course of study (see the list of visits at the end of the document).

 

 

Field study: 

Mandatory Visits

  • Musée d’Orsay (Impressionism and Post-Impressionism
  • Musée de l’Orangerie (Monet’s Les Nymphéas and the Paul Guillaume collection)
  • Hokusai exhibition at the Grand Palais
  • Musée Picasso
  • Centre Georges Pompidou (Museum of Modern Art)  
  • Musée du Louvre, Islamic Art

Mandatory Open Visits

  • Musée national des Arts asiatiques
  • Musée du Quai Branly. Permanent collection, African Art

Recommended visits

  • Musée Cernuschi, musée des arts de l’Asie de la Ville de Paris
  • Musée Marmottan Monet
  • Institut du Monde Arabe
Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Oral presentation  30%
  • Mid-term: 25%
  • Class participation: 20%
  • Final exam: 25%

Oral Presentation
Including a 5-6 page paper to accompany the presentation (Verdana 10, 1.5 spacing, detailed bibliography, 10 minute presentation):

MidTerm
Image analysis and commentary/questions based on coursework

Class Participation
Speaking, assignments, diligence, presence at mandatory visits

content: 
Session Content Field Study Readings and Assignments
1 General Introduction

  1. Course Presentation: From Delacroix and Manet to Abstract Art

    1. French Art before 1850

      • The Greek model

      • Classical Art

      • Imitation

      • Introduction to major breaks in the 19th century (the beginning of modernity)

   
2
  1. Modernism, Modernity, and Modern artists

    • What is modern art?

    • Why did so many modern artists look for inspiration outside of the western tradition?

Presentation Distribution

 

To read:

  • Clement Greenberg, Modernist Painting, 1960 (Coursebook pp. 14-20)
  • Charles Baudelaire,  « chapitre IV. La modernité », Le peintre de la vie moderne, publié la 1ère fois en 1863.
  • (Coursebook pp. 21-23)

All of the texts can be found in the coursebook and on Moodle

Homework: (oral)
With the help of the above-mentioned texts, respond to the following question: “Why, in your opinion, did so many modern artists look for sources of inspiration outside of the European context, and what did they discover?”

To present in class (oral)

3
  1. Japonism

    1. Introduction
    • Definition
    • Circumstances surrounding the discovery of Japanese art in the 19th Century
   
  Mandatory Visit to Guimet National Museum of Asian Arts. Permanent section, Japanese section.  

Guimet National Museum of Asian Arts.

Assignment: paper based on visit. What is Ukiyo-e? What are the characteristics of these works and how are they different from Western works?

Work to be presented in class.

  Recommended Visit
Musée Cernuschi, permanent collection, Japanese section
   
4
  1. Pictures of a Floating World (Ukiyo-e)

    1. Formal characteristics of Japanese prints

    2. Influence on Manet’s work: formal innovations

      • Composition

      • Framing

      • Color

      • Black and white

      • Decorative elements: the kimono and the fan

 

Assignment: Paper based on visit. What is Ukiyo-e? What are the characteristics of these works and how are they different from Western works?

In-class presentation of paper.

To read:

  • Keiko Omoto et Francis Macouin, « Le Japon inspire les artistes », Quand le Japon s’ouvrit au monde. Emile Guimet et les arts d’Asie, Découvertes Gallimard, Paris, 1990, pp. 164-167 (Livret de cours pp. 24-25).

 

  Recommended Visit

Musée Monet Marmottan

  Analysis of a work: analyse Monet’s Impression soleil levant, 1873, musée Marmottan (according to recommendations, p. x of coursebook)
5

3. The Impressionists and Japanese Prints

History of Impressionism

 

Assignment: summarize the text of  Théodore Duret, Histoire des peintres l’impressionnistes, éd. Floury, Paris, 1906

 

To read: THÉODORE DURET, Histoire des peintres impressionnistes, Paris, Floury, 1939, p. 26 et suiv. (Coursebook pp. 26-27)

 

Analysis of a work: analyse Monet’s Impression soleil levant, 1873, musée Marmottan (according to recommendations, p. x of coursebook and on Moodle)

6

B. Japanese collections and the Impressionists

C. Influence of Japanese prints on the Impressionists (1/2)

Claude Monet, Cézanne, Degas…

  • Series
  • Framing
  • Perspective
  • Subjects
   
 

Impressionism & Post-impressionism

Nabis

Mandatory visit: d’Orsay musée

 
7

C. Influence of Japanese prints on the Impressionists (2/2)

  • Claude Monet, Cézanne, Degas…
  • Series
  • Framing
  • Perspective
  • Subjects
   
8

D. Post-Impressionism

  • Van Gogh, Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec
  • Seurat et Signac
   
Mandatory Visit

Les Nympheas, from the Monet

Collection Paul Guillaume

Exposition Emile Bernard

Hokusai at the Grand Palais

Mandatory visit: musée de l’Orangerie

Hokusai at the Grand Palais

 
9

E. Decorative Arts and Japonism

  • The Nabis: Vuillard, M. Denis
  • Viennese Artists: Klimt
  • Art Nouveau
  Assignment: With the help of the Maurice Denis Museum website (Moodle link) define the Nabis Group and the work of Maurice Denis (Oral presentation. To present in class with 2-3 people, with illustrations)
10

The influence of Japanese Art and Asia on the artists of the 1950s:

John Cage, Rauschenberg, Yves Klein

Guest speaker: Ulrike Kasper PhD  

Mandatory Visit

Musée du Quai Branly

Permanent Collection on African Art

  Assignment: With the help of the Quai Branly visit and other works (available in the IES library, for example) define the major differences between African and Western Art (to present in class, citing sources)
11

II. Primitivism in Modern Art

1. African Art: A 20th Century Revolution

A. Introduction to African Art

 

Assignment: With the help of the Quai Branly visit and other works (available in the IES library, for example) define the major differences between African and Western Art (to present in class, citing sources)

12 Mid-term
13
  1. Paul Gauguin, a precursor
  2. 1905, Modern artists meet African Art
  1. The Artists: Derain, Vlaminck, Matisse, Picasso
  2. Paul Guillaume Fernand Léger, La création du monde, 1923
  • A style phenomenon: “African evenings” and the Black Review
 

To read:

Jean Laude, Rencontre avec l’art nègre, extrait d’une conférence, lors du colloque « Picasso, Art nègre et civilisation de l’universel » en mai 1872 à Dakar, éd. Toguna, Toulouse, 1999, pp. 5-18 (coursebook pp. 28-35)

Assignment: with the help of the readings (see bibliography at the end of the syllabus) definise primitivism in relation to the modern artists (cite your sources) (oral presentation)

14

Fauvism (Vlaminck, Derain, Matisse...) seeks to find a new narrative and description method or representation. In African Art they find certain responses to such questions. 

B. The German Expressionists (Kandinsky, Macke, Nolde…)

   
Mandatory Visit The Avante-Garde at the Museum of Modern Art (Pompidou) Mandatory visits:  Musée Picasso Museum of Modern Art (Pompidou)  
15

Picasso and Les demoiselles d’Avignon, Moma, NY, 1907

The birth of Cubism and the first of Picasso’s sculptures. Braque

 

Assignment: Formal analysis of Picasso’s Les demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907, MoMA, New York

(An explanatory document can be found on Moodle)

16

D. Modern sculpture

African sculpture played a dominant role in the artistic training of Brancusi, Modigliani, Giacometti, Picasso

  Assignment: In groups of 2 or 3, present on a sculpture by Brancusi, Giacometti, Modigliani or Picasso. Highlight their African influences and discuss the influence of Primitive Art upon these sculptures (oral presentation with accompanying illustrations)
17 Extracts from the film by Henri Georges Cluzot, Le mystère Picasso, 1955    
18
  1. Primitivism and the Subconscious (Dada and Surrealism)
   
Mandatory Visit The Islamic art section, The Louvre Visit: Louvre Museum  
19

F. The primitive tendencies in abstract art: the search for “basic” forms  (Kandinsky, Malevitch, Kupka, Mondrian)

Abstract art and geometry (Kupka and Kandinsky)

 

Assignment: What is abstract art? (History, definition. 1-1.5 pages). Cite sources w/ bibliography (oral presentation)

20

III. Orientalism and the importance of Islamic art in Modern Art

  1.  Introduction and definition of Orientalism
  2. History and specific aspects of Islamic Art
 

Assignment: What are the specific characteristics of Islamic Art? Which aspects were the modern artists particularly drawn to?

(1-2 pages, with footnotes and bibliography)

21

3. Islamic Art and Modern Art

A. Color: Delacroix (after 1832), Kees Van Dogen, Camoin, Marquet, Matisse

Major/minor Art (Matisse and La Chapelle du Rosaire, Fauvist ceramics and Picasso)

 

Assignment: How did Islamic Art influence Matisse’s work? Cite your sources.

22 4. Henri Matisse   Analysis of a work: analyze Matisse’s work, La desserte rouge, 1908, musée de l’Hermitage (according to recommendations found on Moodle)
23

Conclusion

Western Influence on African Art of today

Islamic Art in the present day

   
24 Final Exam    

 

Required readings: 

Japonism

  • Aitken, G. et Delafond, M., La collection d’estampes japonaises de Claude Monet, La Bibliothèque des Arts, Paris, 1998.
  • G. Benaroya, Laure, Edmond et Jules Goncourt ou le prix de la passion, éd. Christian, Paris, 2003
  • Castel, Michel, Toulouse-Lautrec et le japonisme, Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi, 1991
  • Ellridge, Arthur, Gauguin et les nabis, Terrail, Paris, 2003
  • Lambourg, Lionel, Japonisme : échanges culturels entre Japon et l’Occident, Phaidon, Londres, Paris, 2006
  • Murase, Miyeko, L’art du Japon, Livre de Poche, Paris, 1992
  • Omoto, Keiko et Macouin, Francis, Quand le Japon s’ouvrit au monde. Emile Guimet et les arts d’Asie, Découvertes Gallimard, Paris, 1990
  • Peng, Chang Ming, Echos : l’art pictural chinois et ses résonances dans la peinture occidentale, Libr. You-Feng, Paris, 2004
  • Le Japonisme, éd. RMN, Paris, 1988

Primitivism

  • Apollinaire, Guillaume, A propos de l’art nègre, TogunaConnelly, Frances S. The Sleep of Reason : Primitivism in Modern European Art and Aesthetics, 1725-1907, University Park, The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995 Dagen, Philippe, Le peintre, le poète, le sauvage : les voies du primitivisme dans l'art français, Paris, Flammarion, 1998
  • Guillaume, Paul, La sculpture nègre et l’art moderne,Toguna
  • Goldwater, Robert, Le primitivisme dans l'art moderne, Paris, Presses universitaires de France, 1988
  • Laude, Jean, Les arts de l’Afrique Noire, Livre de Poche, Paris, 1990
  • LAUDE, Jean, La peinture française et l’art nègre, Klincksieck, Paris 2006
  • LAUDE, Jean, Rencontre avec l’art nègre, extrait d’une conf érence, lors du colloque « Picasso, Art nègre et civilisation de l’universel » en mai 1872 à Dakar, éd. Toguna, Toulouse, 1999
  • Matisse, Picasso, Derain, Vlaminck, Cocteau, Gris, Brancusi, Salmon, Lipchitz, Guillaume, Goloubew, Opinions sur L'Art Nègre, éd. Toguna
  • Primitivism and Twentieth-Century Art : A Documentary History, Jack Flam with Miriam Deutch, dir., Berkeley [etc.], University of California Press, 2003
  • PREVOST, Liliane, de Courtilles, Isabelle, Guide des croyances et symboles – Afrique : Bambara, Dogon, Peul, éd. L’Harmattan, Paris, 2005.
  • Varnedoe,  Kirk, « Le primitivisme », in Kirk Varnedoe, Au mépris des règles : en quoi l'art moderne est-il moderne?,  Paris, A. Biro, 1990
  • Warin, François, La passion de l'origine : essai sur la généalogie des arts premiers, Paris, Ellipses, 2006
  • Rubin, William, dir., Le primitivisme dans l'art du 20e siècle : les artistes modernes devant l'art tribal [éd. française réalisée sous la dir. de Jean-Louis Paudrat], Paris, Flammarion, 1987
  • Dossier du Centre Pompidou, L’atelier d’Albert Giacometti

Islamic Art

  • David Talbot Rice, L’art de l’Islam, éditions l’Univers de l’art, 1994 (chapitres 1, 4, 8).
  • Arts et civilisations de l’Islam sous la direction de Markus Hattstein et Peter Delius, Éditions Könemann, 2000.
  • Marthe Bernus-Taylor, L’art en Terres d’Islam, Paris, Editions Desclée de Brower, Ecole du Louvre, 1988.
  • Histoire de l’Art, volume 2, Moyen âge, chrétienté et Islam sous la direction de Georges Duby, Paris, Flammarion 1996 pages 438–535
  • Le Maroc de Matisse, Institut du Monde Arabe (Collectif), 1999
  • Eugène Delacroix, Journal 1822–1863, Paris, Plon, 1981.
  • Lyne Thorntorn, Les orientalistes, peintres voyageurs 1828 – 1908, Paris, 1983.
  • Paul Klee, Journal, Paris, Grasset, 1982.
  • Figure du moderne - L’Expressionnisme en Allemagne 1905-1914, catalogue d’exposition du Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris, Paris-Musées, 1992

Research Libraries:

  • Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF)
  • Asian Art: Bibliothèque du Musée national des Arts asiatiques Guimet 
6, place d’Iéna, 75116 Paris
  • Islam: Institut du Monde Arabe
  • Bibliothèque Publique d’Information (BPI) Centre Pompidou
  • Bibliothèque Forney