The Liberation of Painting: Modernism and Anarchism in Avant-Guerre Paris

University of Chicago Press
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The years before World War I were a time of social and political ferment in Europe, which profoundly affected the art world. A major center of this creative tumult was Paris, where many avant-garde artists sought to transform modern art through their engagement with radical politics. In this provocative study of art and anarchism in prewar France, Patricia Leighten argues that anarchist aesthetics and a related politics of form played crucial roles in the development of modern art, only to be suppressed by war fever and then forgotten.
Leighten examines the circle of artists—Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, František Kupka, Maurice de Vlaminck, Kees Van Dongen, and others—for whom anarchist politics drove the idea of avant-garde art, exploring how their aesthetic choices negotiated the myriad artistic languages operating in the decade before World War I. Whether they worked on large-scale salon paintings, political cartoons, or avant-garde abstractions, these artists, she shows, were preoccupied with social criticism. Each sought an appropriate subject, medium, style, and audience based on different conceptions of how art influences society—and their choices constantly shifted as they responded to the dilemmas posed by contradictory anarchist ideas. According to anarchist theorists, art should expose the follies and iniquities of the present to the masses, but it should also be the untrammeled expression of the emancipated individual and open a path to a new social order. Revealing how these ideas generated some of modernism’s most telling contradictions among the prewar Parisian avant-garde, The Liberation of Painting restores revolutionary activism to the broader history of modern art.
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About the author

Patricia Leighten is professor of art history and visual studies at Duke University. She is the author of Re-Ordering the Universe: Picasso and Anarchism, 1894–1914; coauthor of Cubism and Culture; and coeditor of A Cubism Reader: Documents and Criticism, 1906–1914.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Nov 8, 2013
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9780226002422
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Art / General
Art / History / Modern (late 19th Century to 1945)
History / Europe / France
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This content is DRM protected.
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The spellbinding story, part fairy tale, part suspense, of Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, one of the most emblematic portraits of its time; of the beautiful, seductive Viennese Jewish salon hostess who sat for it; the notorious artist who painted it; the now vanished turn-of-the-century Vienna that shaped it; and the strange twisted fate that befell it.
 
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And O’Connor writes of Klimt himself, son of a failed gold engraver, shunned by arts bureaucrats, called an artistic heretic in his time, a genius in ours.
 
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