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Michele Greet

An International Proving Ground : Latin American Artists at the Paris Salons

[06/06/2017]

Résumé

Between World Wars I and II, the various Paris salons were an important proving ground for Latin American artists. In addition to providing a well-established and supported cultural infrastructure, which in some Latin American countries simply did not exist at all and in others not to the same extent, these salons allowed artists to test new ideas and garner reviews that would help establish their reputation at home and abroad. Moreover, these artists understood the implications and parameters of exhibiting at the different salons and often selected their venue accordingly, strategically positioning themselves as traditional, anti-academic, or avant-garde. Latin American artists were not immune to the conflicts that plagued the independent salon in the 1920s, however ; and many took a stand in the face of increasing xenophobia.

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  • 1 This essay is a condensed version of a single chapter in the book Michele Greet, Transatlantic Enco (...)

1In the years between World War I and World War II Paris was at the center of the art-world. But that “center” was much more global and multicultural than historical accounts would have us believe.1 While the very essence of twentieth-century art history, as it is currently written, stems from the movements and avant-garde experiments that emerged in Paris in the early years of the century, the artists who contributed to these movements comprised a multitude of international voices. These artists in turn articulated distinct interpretations of European modernism in distant locations as they returned home or moved on to other cities. Artists from around the world embraced the myth of Paris as a legendary site of Bohemian life, creativity, artistic transformation, and coming of age. One of the most appealing aspects of traveling to Paris, however, was the prospect of participating in the many well-attended annual exhibitions and perhaps even eliciting a review by a renowned art critic.

  • 2 For a discussion of the French Salons see Claire Maingon, L’âge critique des salons 1914-1925 : l’é (...)
  • 3 See, for example, Marta Penhos, Diana Wechsler, and Miguel Angel Muñoz, Tras los pasos de la norma  (...)

2The Paris salons provided infrastructure for many Latin American artists who simply did not have regular exhibition opportunities in their country of origin. By the early 1920s, when Latin American artists began to arrive in Paris in large numbers, there were five annual salons from which to choose : the official salons organized by the Société des Artistes Français (1881) and the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts (1890), the Salon des Indépendants (1884), the Salon d’Automne (1903), and the recently founded Salon des Tuileries (1923).2 Whereas many of the national art schools in Latin America (i.e. Mexico’s Academía de Bellas Artes de San Carlos, Cuba’s Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes San Alejandro, Venezuela’s Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, and Brazil’s Escola Nacional de Belas Artes) held annual exhibitions of student work, these exhibitions did not confer the same degree of prestige or subsequent sales as did success abroad. Initiatives outside the art schools, such as the Week of Modern Art held in São Paulo in 1922, were one-time events or short-lived and inconsistent in their exhibition schedules. In Venezuela, for example, the independent Círculo de Bellas Artes, established in 1912, only hosted three salons in its six years of existence. The one exception was Argentina’s Salón Nacional de Bellas Artes (now known as the Salón Nacional de Artes Visuales) that has run uninterrupted since 1911.3 The mere fact that Paris offered consistent and multiple exhibition opportunities was a major draw for artists. By examining which salons attracted Latin American artists, the implications of their alignment with specific salons, reviews of their work, and strategies of resistance to salon politics, this essay will demonstrate the significance of Paris’s salon system in establishing an artist’s career and reputation.

  • 4 Christopher Green, Art in France : 1900-1940, Yale University Press Pelican History of Art (New Hav (...)

3Equally important was the regular press coverage of these salons by professional art critics. Throughout the 1920s André Salmon wrote a column for the Revue de France, Waldemar George wrote for L’Amour de l’art, Maurice Raynal for l’Intransigeant, and Raymond Cogniat specifically covered Latin American involvement in all the salons for the Revue de l’Amérique Latine.4 Participation in the salons of Paris, especially with accompanying notice in the press, allowed foreign artists to make a name for themselves both abroad and in the eyes of their compatriots at home without the organizational challenges of an individual exhibition. By participating in these salons, however, Latin American artists contributed to the immense foreign presence that inundated these exhibitions in the 1920s, and were consequently subject to the emerging anti-foreign sentiment that this onslaught provoked. These exhibitions were thus both a source of prestige and of controversy.

The Société des Artistes Français and the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts

  • 5 By counting those artists listed in the Revue de l’Amérique Latine between 1923 and 1932 and those (...)
  • 6 Napoleon Bonaparte established the Legion of Honor, the highest decoration in France, in 1802. The (...)

4Since foreigners were often excluded from the inner sanctum of the French academy, it would seem logical that they exhibited more frequently in those salons that were more accepting of non-academic techniques. This was not the case, however. Since academic technique was entrenched in the conservative academies in Latin American capitals, artists seemed to exhibit in almost equal numbers in the traditional salons and at the Independent and Autumn salons.5 Yet, artists greatly favored the salon organized by the Société des Artistes Français over that sponsored by the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, most likely because of the latter’s more stringent entry requirements. While no longer run by the state in the twentieth century, these two salons still aimed to provide an official marketplace for art as well as to promote a positive and regulated representation of national culture. Given these salons’ previous ties to the academy and the state, modernist or experimental art was rarely sanctioned, but Latin American artists working in academic modes found recognition there. For long time residents of Paris, frequent recognition at these salons could lead to the ultimate accolade, the French Legion of Honor for significant contribution to French culture.6

  • 7 Raymond Cogniat, “La Vie artistique : Les salons, société nationale des beaux-arts,” Revue de L’Amé (...)
  • 8 Raymond Cogniat, “Les Salons,” Revue de L’Amérique Latine vol.15, n° 78, Jun. 1 (1928), p. 553.

5French art critic Raymond Cogniat began reviewing Latin American artists’ contributions to the salons regularly in his column “La Vie Artistique” for the Revue de l’Amérique Latine beginning in 1923. Very quickly his low opinion of the two national salons became clear. He frequently commented on the banality and monotony of the work on display, and the boredom the whole experience provoked, calling these salons a place “where the banal competes with the pretentious,”7 and asserting that they “provided the annual occasion to discover artists that can only be encountered there – fortunately, one time a year is enough !”8 Despite his overt disdain for the official salons, Cogniat dutifully reviewed the works by Latin American artists shown there, but often did not have much good to say. In his view these salons were obsolete, only useful as a showcase for academic art and as a point of comparison with the more forward-looking Independent, Autumn, and Tuileries salons.

  • 9 Raymond Cogniat, “La Vie artistique : Le salon,” Revue de L’Amérique Latine Vol 19, n°102, Jun. 1 ( (...)

6While few Latin American artists won top prizes at the national salons, artists such as Peruvian Felipe Cossio del Pomar and Chilean Julio Fossa-Calderón had their work featured in the official catalogue of the Société des Artistes Français. Cossio del Pomar’s painting was a surprising choice because of its rather bland organization and unrefined technique. Cossio del Pomar was more of a scholar than a painter, only exhibiting three times in the Société des Artistes Français and twice in the Autumn salon during his entire time in Paris between 1911 and 1932. His painting, Descendants of the Incas (1930) (Imagen 1), depicts an indigenous man and woman in traditional dress in an Andean landscape. The composition is straightforward with little attempt to structure the space in a dynamic manner. Its most remarkable feature is the attention to detail on the costumes and textiles. As Cogniat noted, the painting was most likely singled out as an anthropological curiosity rather than for its technical skill : “ The work by Felipe Cossio del Pomar makes one stop a moment because the characters he has chosen (descendants of Incas) are curious types, and are wearing very original costumes, but the technique of the artist is lacking.”9 This choice on the part of salon organizers to feature the artist’s work in the catalogue thus once again speaks to the tendency to value Latin American art for its presentation of the exotic rather than its aesthetic quality. Chilean artist Julio Fossa-Calderon’s featured painting, The White Dress (Imagen 2), on the contrary, is a traditional full-length portrait of a woman in a long white gown. The painting has no ethnic overtones, and would therefore have been indistinguishable from paintings by French artists. It was precisely this parity that provoked calls for segregation or separation and classification of non-French artists in the 1920s, however.

Imagen 1 – Cossío del Pomar, Felipe (1889-1981), Descendants of the Incas, ca. 1930, Oil on canvas. Current location unknown. Reproduced in 1930 Société des Artistes Français catalogue.

Imagen 2 – Fossa-Calderon, Julio (1874-1946), The White Dress, ca. 1929, Oil on canvas. Current location unknown. Reproduced in 1929 Société des Artistes Français catalogue.

  • 10 Cogniat, “La Vie artistique : Les salons, société nationale des beaux-arts,”, p. 68.
  • 11 Ibid.

7The salons also provided an outlet for sculptors, who would not have had a regular forum in which to exhibit their work otherwise. Female sculptors, in particular, found Paris to be a more accepting environment. Carmen Mazilier was a regular exhibitor at the national salons between 1924 and 1931, and in 1928 her sculpture Gaucho in the Pampa (Imagen 3) was featured in the Société des Artistes Français catalogue. Not surprisingly, her earlier submissions, sculptures of a mother and child, a bust of a young woman, or a nude huntress executed in an academic style, received little critical attention. Cogniat even commented disparagingly that her sculptures would have been just as successful at the salons of 1900.10 But once she changed her subject matter to a nostalgic national motif, an Argentine cowboy, her work appeared in the catalogue and critics took note. According to Cogniat, “Gaucho in the Pampa by M. Mazillier [sic.] is also good, a work in plaster of small size in which the author knew to avoid insipidness. Clearly, the type of figure, in itself, has a lot of character, but in addition, he is handled with a view toward the whole so that technique does not diminish the ensemble with too much meticulous detail.”11 Suddenly, now that the subject is a Gaucho, the work has character and even Cogniat’s assessment of the artist’s technique has improved.

Imagen 3 – Mazilier, Carmen, Gaucho on the Pampa, ca. 1928, Plaster. Current location unknown. Reproduced in 1928 Société des Artistes Français catalogue.

  • 12 For more on Tobón Mejía see Jorge Cárdenas, Vida y obra de Marco Tobón Mejía, Vida y obra : Artista (...)
  • 13 “Une Oeuvre de M. Tobón Mejia,” Revue de L’Amérique Latine Supplément Illustré, Jul. 1 (1930), p. v (...)
  • 14 Cogniat, “La Vie artistique : Les salons, société nationale des beaux-arts,”, p. 68.
  • 15 Anecdote recounted in Jorge Cárdenas, Vida y obra de Marco Tobón Mejía, Vida y obra : Artistas anti (...)

8Other sculptors such as Colombian Marco Tobón Mejía used the salons as a place to vet in stages ideas for monumental sculptures commissioned by their national governments, exhibiting small scale clay or plaster models to receive feedback before executing the final versions in marble or bronze.12 Tobón Mejía, who received the Legion of Honor from the French government in 1928, submitted various manifestations of his sculpture Anguished Solitude : for the monument to the poet José Asunción Silva to the salon beginning around 1923 (Imagen 4). When it was finally exhibited in finished form – a two meter tall marble sculpture of a voluptuous nude sitting on a rock – in 1930 at the Société des Artistes Français, it was nominated for a gold medal and reproduced in the July issue of the Revue de l’Amérique Latin in its supplément illustré.13 Cogniat described the evolution of the sculpture : “We have already had the opportunity to see this work in several stages and materials, but, only this time, executed in its full dimensions and definitive material (marble), does it achieve its full value ; it now seems more moving than it was previously, beautiful combination of forms and expressive attitudes.”14 When French president Paul Doumer visited the salon and was told the piece was by a Colombian artist, he proclaimed “The Latin Sister to France, South America. It’s the same. The talent of our race ; the same culture, eternal throughout all time and space.”15 This comment reveals an interesting conundrum : when Latin American artists worked in European visual languages and attained results on par or superior to their French colleagues, their success was attributed to an all-encompassing Latinity rather than individual talent or the spirit of a nation. But this ability to assimilate simultaneously disturbed French critics and they worried that these artists would surpass the French at their own game. They therefore began to demand differentiation and authenticity in both subject matter and style.

Imagen 4 – Tobón Mejía, Marco (1876-1933), Anguished Solitude : for the monument to the poet José Asunción Silva, ca. 1929, Plaster. Reproduced in 1929 Société des Artistes Français catalogue.

The Salon d’Automne and the Salon des Tuileries

  • 16 The Independent, Automn, and Tuileries salon all took place at the Palais de Bois, creating an even (...)
  • 17 César Vallejo, Artículos y crónicas completos (Lima : Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, 200 (...)
  • 18 See website for complete list http://chnm.gmu.edu/transatlanticencounters/
  • 19 The Tuileries only accepted 500 paintings per year as compared to the 1200 shown at the Salon d’Aut (...)

9The more forward-looking Autumn and Tuileries salons attracted a different coalition of artists with more modernist, yet not generally radical or avant-garde, leanings.16 The type of painting at these salons aligned with the general tendency to paint in a readable and often classicizing manner known as the “return to order” after the war. Peruvian poet and critic César Vallejo described the Tuileries salon as promoting “a new type of beauty” and allowing viewers to discover “unexpected visual horizons.”17 Founded in 1903, the Salon d’Automne retained a highly selective jury, which lent a degree of prestige to exhibiting there over the Salon des Indépendants. As with the national salons, at least sixty Latin American artists exhibited at the Salon d’Automne between the wars.18 Some artists used the salon as a regular exhibition venue such as Manuel Ortiz de Zárate (Imagen 5), who exhibited at the Salon d’Automne nearly every year from 1920 to 1940, as did Brazilian artist Domingos Viegas Toledo Piza (Imagen 6) until 1936. Others just submitted to the salons occasionally because of their shorter stays in Paris or because they had representation elsewhere. The roster of artists who exhibited at the Tuileries was similar to that of the Autumn Salon, but a bit more limited given its smaller size, with Brecheret, Curatellas Manes, Ortiz de Zárate, Toledo Piza and many others exhibiting there regularly.19 More so than a positive review at the national salons, receiving critical acclaim at the Salon d’Automne or the Salon des Tuileries helped many artists secure an individual exhibition at one of Paris’s many art galleries.

Imagen 5 – Ortiz de Zárate, Manuel (1886-1946), Still Life with Guitar, ca. 1920s, Oil on canvas, 28 3/4 x 45 2/3 in. (73 x 116 cm). Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.

Imagen 6 – Toledo-Piza, Domingos Viegas (1887-1945), Still Life, n.d. Oil on canvas, 18 1/8 x 21 2/3 in. (46 x 55 cm). Private collection.

  • 20 For more on Anita Malfatti see Marta Rossetti Batista, Anita Malfatti : no tempo e no espaço (São P (...)
  • 21 Pablo Curatella Manes, Curatella Manes (Buenos Aires : Zurbarán Ediciones, 1998).
  • 22 Raymond Cogniat, “La Vie artistique : Les artistes américains au Salon d’Automne,” Revue de L’Améri (...)

10The range of subjects and styles accepted at the Salon d’Automne was greater than at the national salons. One noteworthy Latin American painter to exhibit there was Anita Malfatti, who used the salon as a sounding board during her three years in Paris.20 In 1924 Malfatti submitted her first two paintings Little Canal and Church Interior (Imagen 7) to the Salon d’Automne. While Le Crapouillot reproduced the latter with no commentary, Cogniat proclaimed that he felt a “particular aversion” to the types of paintings Malfatti submitted.21 Although Cogniat does not specify what he disliked about the paintings, he may have found them to be a rather quaint and common rendition of European sights. Most likely as a result of this negative commentary, the following year Malfatti decided to submit Tropical, which had been exhibited previously as Woman with Fruit Basket at the preliminary exhibition of Latin American art at the Maison de l’Amérique Latine in 1923. This time, Cogniat wrote a positive review, calling it “colorful and agreeable.”22 Malfatti thus understood the clear pressure for Latin American artists to submit a certain type of painting to the salons. Cogniat’s endorsement was sufficient for her to secure an individual exhibit at the Galerie André in 1926.

Imagen 7 – Malfatti, Anita (1889-1964), Church Interior, 1924, Oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 21 1/4 in. (65 x 54 cm). Private collection.

11Malfatti again returned to the Salon d’Automne in 1927 with Woman from Para (Imagen 8) and Villa d’Este. Woman from Para, in particular, exemplifies her evolution as an artist in response to the critical environment in Paris. After severely criticizing the portrait she submitted to the Tuileries in the spring of 1927, Cogniat dedicated two paragraphs in his review of the Autumn Salon to Malfatti’s Woman from Para :

Miss Malfatti, whom we feared at the last exhibition to have been losing her personality and disappearing into academic mediocrity, gives us this time a new aspect of her originality and one could not deny the definitively modern character of certain influences which one recognizes in her work, in particular the ways in which Woman from Para is treated, picturesque silhouette—(but picturesque painting not picturesque in essence)—which is detached by a white curtain, with designs in very light gray.

  • 23 Cogniat, “La Vie artistique : Les artistes américains au salon d’automne,” 1925, 551.

One finds, especially if one remembers certain paintings by Miss Malfatti, from several years ago, the path traveled since her last submission and the works so strongly influenced by Matisse. And this is not a reproach because under this influence, Miss Malfatti had shown us paintings which were far from being unimportant.23

12In Woman from Para Malfatti has achieved a synthesis between her recent exploration of Matisse and assertion of national identity, moving from influence to re-appropriation and re-invention. Unlike Tropical, Woman of Para does not equate the Brazilian woman with tropical bounty and peasant primitivism ; rather indicators of place are subtler, appearing in the colonial ironwork on the balcony rail and in the woman’s lush black hair combed into a rather eccentric style that resembles wings. Moreover, whereas Pará was the second largest state in Brazil, it would not have been immediately familiar to a Parisian audience. The place name thus lends specificity to the image that the generic regionalism of Tropical lacked.

Imagen 8 – Malfatti, Anita (1889-1964), Woman from Para, ca. 1927, Oil on canvas, 31 1/2 x 25 1/2 in. (80 x 65 cm). Private collection.

13The painting also evidences her growth as an artist. In it, Malfatti undertakes a subtle play with muted colors and textures. Patterns in white cover most of the painted surface : on the gauzy curtains that frame the figure, on the delicate fabric of her long white dress, on the tiny flowers against her jet-black hair, and on the flat surface of the balcony floor. These variations in white are offset with equally ornate patterns in black on the balcony’s iron grillwork and the window shutters. The only points of vivid color appear in the woman’s bright shoes that peak out from beneath her dress and the cushion under her elbow. This foregrounding of the decorative emphasizes the flatness of the picture plane in a manner similar to recent works by Matisse such as Decorative Figure on an Ornamental Background of 1925. But unlike Matisse, Maflatti has avoided vibrant color in her evocation of the decorative, eliminating a common signifier of the tropical. While deploying the decorative in her paintings could be dangerous, easily dismissed as innately feminine rather than modern, Malfatti controls her presentation by limiting her color palette, thereby differentiating herself from Matisse and facile associations with the tropical, and claiming her place as a modernist.

14More importantly, however, Malfatti refuses to allow the paintings’ formal qualities to be its only significant feature. The painting’s subject conveys meaning in a way that Matisse’s decorative figure simply does not. In Matisse’s painting, the nude is merely a motif, a body to distort, flatten, and surround with colors and patterns, and the composition is an exercise in formal virtuosity. The nude’s facial features have been reduced to simple geometries leaving her devoid of character. Under the equalizing spell of the ornamental, the figure is no more important than the floral wallpaper or the potted plant that surround her. Malfatti’s figure, on the contrary, exudes individuality ; her inverted hand gesture, her unusual hairstyle, her clothing choices all suggest a unique personality, whether real or imagined. Yet the iron railing and black shutters create a confined space, isolating her from the world, as if she were trapped unable to achieve her creative potential. Is this painting perhaps a statement on the status of women in Brazil ? Or a more personal expression of frustration at the limitations placed on women artists ? Could Paris be Malfatti’s way out, her ultimate validation as a modernist ? Through the critical feedback Malfatti received on her submissions to the Autumn Salon she was able to refine her approach and find a voice as an artist that was both Brazilian and modern.

  • 24 For Victor Brecheret see Daisy V. M. Peccinini de Alvarado, Brecheret e a Escola de Paris = Brecher (...)
  • 25 Cogniat, “La Vie artistique : Les artistes américains au Salon d’Automne,”, p. 545.
  • 26 http://www.corpusetampois.com/cae-20-doucefrance1925monument.html
  • 27 Waldemar George, “Le Salon des Tuileries,” L’Amour de l’art, n.d., p. 235. Maurice Raynal, “Le Salo (...)

15For sculptors the Salon d’Automne and the Salon des Tuileries were often their primary exhibition venue. Argentine sculptor Pablo Curatella Manes exhibited at the Autumn salon nearly every year from 1919 to 1934 as did Brazilian Victor Brecheret from 1912 to 1929.24 Their presence at the Tuileries was almost as great. Commenting on their submissions to the Autumn Salon in 1925 Cogniat proclaimed “And here are two artists who are very modern yet very different from one another, but who know how to show evidence of their talent and their originality.”25 That year Curatella Manes had shown his low relief sculpture Lancelot of the Lake and Queen Guinevere (Imagen 9) at both venues. The sculpture was intended as part of a collaborative monument entitled La Douce France designed for the esplanade of Les Invalides at the 1925 Exposition internationale des Arts décoratifs. In response to art critic Emmanuel de Thubert’s call for sculptures of heroes of the Middle Ages and Celtic mythology, Curatella Manes created a low relief of Lancelot and Guinevere’s tearful reunion after a long separation.26 Lancelot embraces Guinevere on bent knee, while she stands above him, engulfing her beloved with her entire body. By distorting the flattening the figures, Curatella Manes fills the pictorial space in a dynamic manner, reflecting his training with André Lhote. The grid pattern on Lancelot’s chain mail armor creates a counterpoint to the smooth surface of Guinevere’s gown, and the arrangement of hands in both high and low relief make the scene seem to fluctuate between illusion and reality. Perhaps because of its emphasis on narrative, which fell outside Curatella Manes’ usual focus on single figures or motifs, the artist used the French salons as a means of both vetting and publicizing the sculpture that he would submit to the International Exposition. His repeated presentation of the sculpture had its desired effect, Waldemar George reproduced it with his review of the Salon des Tuileries in L’Amour de l’Art, Maurice Raynal praised it in L’Intransigeant, and Curatella Manes eventually won a silver medal for the sculpture at the Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes.27

Imagen 9 – Curatella Manes, Pablo (1891-1962), Lancelot of the Lake and Queen Guinevere, 1925, Terracotta, 25 1/2 x 17 in. (65 x 43 cm). Private collection.

  • 28 André Lhote, “La Obra de Pablo Curatella Manes,” El Hogar, Jan. 15, 1926, p. 38.

16His success at the International Exposition also brought Curatella Manes recognition in Argentina. On January 15, 1926 the Buenos Aires based journal El Hogar published a full page spread on Curatella Manes’ recent work with illustrations of Lancelot of the Lake and Queen Guinevere, The Guitarist, and The Accordionist. The accompanying text, written by André Lhote, served as a guide for viewers, instructing them how to appreciate modern art. In it Lhote rails against those who expect art to look like nature, and instead asserts that the art world is distinct and should follow its own rules.28 The combination of Curatella Manes’ recognition at important Paris exhibitions and his endorsement by Lhote paved the way for audiences in Buenos Aires to expand and shift their criteria for understanding modernist artistic production.

17The importance of this press coverage for Latin American artists cannot be underestimated. Many artists collected these reviews as verification of their success abroad and quoted or reprinted them in their entirety in publications and exhibition catalogues in their home countries (and many can still be found in artist’s archives). Given the absence of a developed system of art criticism and the public’s general lack of understanding of modernist tendencies in Latin American capitals, obtaining reviews abroad was the only means of forwarding one’s career as an artist and demonstrating that these new approaches to art making were indeed legitimate.

  • 29 José D. Frías quoted in Armando Maribona, El Arte y el amor en Montparnasse : Documental novelado, (...)

18While style and subject matter differed greatly among the Latin American artists who exhibited at the Salon d’Automne and the Salon des Tuileries, these salons provided a consistent and legitimate exhibition venue for artists attempting to establish a name for themselves. Many artists used these modernist leaning salons as a proving ground or a venue in which to test and develop new ideas before facing the weightier consequences of an individual exhibition. By exposing their work to professional critics in the Salon context artists were able to receive critical feedback and hopefully amass positive reviews of their work, which in some cases, was their primary ticket to success upon return home. As Mexican critic José Frías wrote : “Despite how much it is affirmed that the salons serve little purpose, they are, unquestionably, powerful stimuli for many young people… The salons ignite many enthusiasms, and allow some unknown artists to escape from anonymity.”29

The Salon des Indépendants

  • 30 Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris, L’Ecole de Paris, 1904-1929 : la part de l’Autre (Paris : (...)
  • 31 Unfortunately, it is impossible to tell from the catalog where each artist’s work was hung, but Cog (...)
  • 32 Ibid. p. 433.
  • 33 Maribona, El Arte y el amor en Montparnasse, p. 115.
  • 34 Quoted in Ibid. p. 112.

19Established in 1884 with no jury, prizes, or entry criteria, the Independent Salon attracted many foreign entrants. After being closed during the war from 1915 to 1919, the Salon des Indépendants reopened in 1920 at the Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées. As more and more foreign artists arrived in Paris in the 1920s, the salon grew larger each year, accepting up to 2000 submissions, and causing some critics to accuse foreign artists of diluting so-called “French art.”30 Consequently, in 1924 the hanging committee decided to abandon its tradition of presenting works alphabetically by artist’s last name (started in 1922, before that from 1911 by tendency) and instead organized the galleries according to national identity. Defining national identity was a fraught project, however, and many artists who had established French residency exhibited in the French section, although most Latin American artists seem to have exhibited under their country of origin.31 While this organizational mechanism did little to re-establish the “purity” of French art, many artists, both French and foreign were outraged, at the blatant xenophobia of the move, sparking the so-called “quarrel of the independents” in the press. In his review of the 1924 salon Cogniat commented on the “violent polemics” that surrounded the show, and the little good it did in interpreting the artwork.32 For Latin American artists, many of whom believed in the notion of their shared Latinity with their French colleagues, the reorganization felt outright discriminatory. Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro protested outside the salon, passing out copies of his journal Creation at the opening and shouting “Down with the Salon des Indépendents,”33 and José Frías proclaimed, “The separation of artists by nationality goes against the statutes of the Independent Salon, since one of its articles establishes that ‘there will be no distinction by age, sex, or nationality.’”34 Cuban artist Armando Maribona protested that French paranoia about the infiltration of foreign influence was misplaced because so many foreign artists emulated French styles :

  • 35 Ibid. p. 113, 115.

What do you think of the xenophobia of those men ?...What leaves me with a feeling of painful melancholy is confirming that foreigners are quickly losing their originality. And this, which is serious, should be enough so that they do not need to declare these absurd classifications by nationality. What greater proof do the French want of their influence than this, sad, of the abolition of the personalities of the foreigners who come to Paris ?35

20Rather than diluting or corrupting French art, Maribona felt that foreign artists were losing their identity because of their exaggerated reverence for the French tradition. Thus for Maribona, the situation was far worse for the foreigner than for the French artists. Yet the French still feared the impact of this growing foreign presence.

  • 36 Some noteworthy Latin American artists at the Salon des indepéndants included Rodolfo Alcorta, Vict (...)
  • 37 Maribona, El Arte y el amor en Montparnasse, p. 117.
  • 38 “Beaux-Arts : Le 35e salon des artistes indépendants,” Comoedia, February 10, 1924.

21While some French and foreign artists boycotted the 1924 exhibition, the organization of the salon seems to have had more impact on the debates and perception of non-French artists, than on actual participation. In 1924, at least thirteen Latin American artists participated in the Salon des Indépendants and their presence continued to increase until the late 1920s, with the roster of artists very similar to that at the Salon d’Automne and the Salon des Tuileries.36 Yet this segregation by national identity caused French critics to impose primitivist assumptions on art by foreigners. As Maribona pointed out : “The Northern Europeans continue to believe that Africa starts in the Pyrenees, and that America is a semi-savage continent.”37 The review in Comoedia, for example, divided the assessment of the salon into “French Painters” and “Foreign Painters,” and interpreted each artist’s work according to his or her country of origin : “Mrs. Manes inclines the Argentine flag toward André Lhote’s method, and Mr. Rego Monteiro wants us to believe that in Brazil one expresses oneself in the same way with oil painting as with the hardest stone.”38 Ironically, Germaine Manes was Pablo Curatella Manes’ French wife, whom he met in Paris, and Rego Monteiro, who was Brazilian, now represented an entire nation. The critic perceived Rego Monteiro’s transferal of the quality of stone to paint as unsophisticated, and relates this quality not to the artist’s training and creative decisions, but rather to his Brazilian origin, despite the fact that he was bi-lingual and bi-cultural – he spent his career alternating between Paris and Brazil, living in Paris from 1911-1914, 1921-1938, and 1946-1957. This association of style with national identity allowed the critic to disparage an entire nation with the stroke of a pen.

  • 39 For more on Vicente do Rego Monteiro see Walter Zanini, Vicente do Rego Monteiro : artista e poeta (...)
  • 40 That year he also published a book of prints Legendes croyances et talismans des indiens de l'amazo (...)

22As the negative review perhaps indicates, the painting Rego Monteiro submitted to the Independent Salon, The Hunt (1923) (Imagen 10) was a rather daring transitional work and quite unique in the context of the salon.39 In the early 1920s Rego Monteiro had experimented with cubism in works such as Woman Before a Mirror (Imagen 11) of 1922, with its fractured flattened space, blocks of solid color, and tilting perspective, but in 1923, working in Nice, he began to develop a signature style that used paint to emulate low relief stone carvings.40 His submission of The Hunt to the Independent salon was the first time Rego Monteiro combined his new style with implicitly Brazilian subject matter. Rego Monteiro seems to have been the only Latin American artist to submit a piece that addressed national identity in any way at all to the 1924 salon. While the painting was most likely completed before the controversy erupted, by submitting it to the salon Rego Monteiro was positioning himself in future debates as an artist who was willing to confront, exploit, and re-construe French expectations of primitivism and exoticism.

Imagen 10 – Rego Monteiro, Vicente do (1899-1970), The Hunt, 1923, Oil on canvas, 70 1/2 x 102 in. (202 x 259.2 cm). Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.

Imagen 11 – Rego Monteiro, Vicente do (1899-1970), Woman Before a Mirror, 1922, Oil on canvas, 38 1/2 x 27 1/8 in. (98 x 69 cm). Private collection.

  • 41 For a discussion of the Brazilian sources present in The Hunt see Edith Wolfe, “Paris as Periphery  (...)
  • 42 Ibid. p. 102.

23In The Hunt, Rego Monteiro depicts three blocky figures engaged in a primordial struggle with some sort of mythical beast, perhaps, a pre-Columbian were-jaguar.41 While the hunters have managed to stab the beast through the upper jaw with a sword or machete, one man sits prone impaled by the beast’s schematized claws, suggesting that nature is a deadly force in this primitive world. Set against a flat charcoal grey background, the bodies of the three men and the beast form a pyramidal composition, with the tension mounting as the bodies merge at the apex. The heads are cylinders and the tubular limbs are schematized, making the figures appear almost robotic or mechanical ; but the muted palette of browns and copper tones gives the image an ancient earthy feel. The crisp outlines and carefully modeled shadows create the illusion that the image has been carved in stone in low relief. The scene therefore alternates between a futuristic mechanized world, where people are machines of war, and an ancient primitive one in which the forces of nature present a perpetual threat. The allusions to World War I and mechanized warfare in The Hunt firmly associates Rego Monteiro’s deployment of primitivism with modernist processes, or as Edith Wolfe contends, the painting defies “academic constructions of the Indian as modernity’s antagonist.”42 During that period Rego Monteiro would become much more sophisticated at engaging and redeploying the primitive in a critique of European colonialist attitudes.

L’Ecole de Paris and the Salon de France

24While the debates about national identity and the arts surrounding the 1924 Salon des Indépendants did not curtail Latin American participation in the salon, they did lead to the reconceptualization of the artistic environment in Paris. In 1925 French critic André Warnod attempted to define and circumscribe the perceived foreign invasion with his invention of The School of Paris :

  • 43 André Warnod, Les Berceaux de la jeune peinture : Montmartre, Montparnasse. (Paris, A. Michel, 1925 (...)

The School of Paris exists…we can confirm its existence and its attractive force that makes artists from all over the world come here…There are among them great artists, creators who give back more than they take. They pay for the others, the followers, the makers of pastiche, the second hand merchants, so others can remain in place and content themselves with coming to France to study the fine arts, returning home right away to exploit the goods they just have acquired and loyally spread throughout the world the sovereignty of French art.43

  • 44 For an extensive discussion of the School of Paris see Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris, L’ (...)

25For Warnod there were two categories of artist, creators and followers. Foreign creators were an acceptable presence because they contributed to French culture, but the followers, despite the fact that they perpetuated the French tradition in their home countries, offered nothing in return for their participation in the schools, salons, and galleries of Paris. What seemed to be at stake for Warnod was that France was losing control of the parameters of artistic exchange. Modernists could borrow ideas and forms from the pure “primitive” tribal artifacts acquired through colonial expansion because the maker was distant, anonymous, unable to affect the terms of exchange ; but when the foreign artist was living in France and exhibiting in the salons, the inability to decipher the work of the French artist from the foreign was disconcerting for critics and audiences. By organizing the salon by national identity and relegating foreign artists, to the School of Paris, France regained control of the terms of exchange because the label allowed the art of anyone who was not French to be construed as derivative.44 Warnod’s terminology thus defined the parameters of the debate for decades to come and positioned foreign artists against their French counterparts. Moreover, his proclamation established a perception of debt and obligation on the part of foreign artists, demanding that they pay France back for the boost in reputation the mere fact of living and working in the country provided.

26At its inception The School of Paris did not denote a particular style, nor was it associated with a self-consciously avant-garde stance ; rather it denoted a generally figurative modernism and anti-academicism. While the term has since come to refer primarily to the Jewish artists living in Montparnasse around World War I, in the 1920s it was much more broadly defined, incorporating various Latin American artists, as well as artists from North America, Asia, Northern and Eastern Europe and Australia. One of the first concrete responses to Warnod’s pronouncement of the School of Paris was the organization in October of 1926 of the Salon de France. The Salon de France was a one-time event sponsored by the journal Paris-Midi and held at the Musée Galliera. In a gesture of solidarity toward the nation that had just isolated and segregated their work at the Independent Salon and proclaimed them freeloaders of French good will, one hundred and forty-two artists from thirty-six different nations banded together to support their benefactor, voluntarily giving up the proceeds from the sale of their work at public auction, to a fund for the stabilization of the French franc. Among the participants were such well-known artists as Chagall, Foujita, Van Dongen, and Juan Gris, as well as Latin Americans Luis Alberto Acuña, Tarsila do Amaral, Carlos Alberto Castellanos, Pedro Figari, Anita Malfatti, Carmen Saco, Domingos Viegas Toledo-Piza, and Angel Zárraga.

  • 45 Paris Midi, Oct. 22, 1926 quoted in Juan Fride, Luis Alberto Acuña : Pintor colombiano (Bogotá : Ed (...)
  • 46 Ibid. p. 20.
  • 47 Romy Golan, Modernity and Nostalgia : Art and Politics in France Between the Wars (New Haven : Yale (...)

27Of the few works by Latin American artists reviewed in the press was Colombian artist Luis Alberto Acuña’s painting Nessus Seducing Deianira (Imagen 12), about which Paris-Midi newspaper, the sponsor of the exhibition, proclaimed : “There are other canvases that are perfectly moderated and demonstrate a sureness of technique ; it is the painting by the Colombian Acuña, Nessus Seducing Deianira.”45 The painting depicts the Greek centaur Nessus, whose blood eventually killed Heracles after he tried to abduct his wife Deianira. Next to her is a peacock, a symbol of beauty, vanity, and immortality because its ability to eat poisonous snakes without harm. In Acuña’s version Deianira does not resist seduction, but rather seems beguiled by the centaur’s charms. She stands nude, in the pose of a Greek goddess, leaning seductively against the centaur’s haunches. Acuña’s combination of the mythological subject matter and decorative approach to the composition aligned the painting with the classical French tradition, with no hint whatsoever of the artist’s cultural identity. The singling out of this painting therefore begs the question as to what exactly organizers wished to accomplish with this exhibition. Was it enough to segregate foreign artists so that their emulation of French art could not be confused with the “real thing” ? Was the danger now eliminated because critics would no longer mistake a foreigner as French ? Since the Musée de Luxembourg bought the painting a few months later for 3500 francs for its annex at the Jeu de Paume, it appears that separation was enough to satisfy the French need for classification and categorization for the time being.46 Indeed, the annex had been established in 1922 to for just this purpose, to divide contemporary art by foreigners from that of their French colleagues. Acuña was among many Latin American artists whose work the museum acquired between the wars.47

Imagen 12 – Acuña, Luis Alberto (1904-1993), Nessus Seducing Deianira, 1926, Oil on canvas, Formerly Musée de Jeu de Paume, Paris, current location unknown.

  • 48 “Art-Lovers Flock To Salon du France,” New York Herald, October 23, 1926, 5.
  • 49 Vanderpyl, “Le Salon du France,” Petit Parisien, Oct. 21, 1926.
  • 50 “L’Amérique Latine : Arts et lettres,” New York Herald, October 31, 1926, 5. While the number print (...)

28This segregation of foreign artists reinforced the notion of debt established by Warnod. As the New York Herald pointed out “In an effort to aid France, to which they feel they owe much, foreign artists living in France arranged the benefit and contributed some of their most precious works.”48 And the Petit Parisien commented that these artists “owe their reputation to the great, unique city that is Paris.”49 Rather than review the art the New York Herald instead reported on the astronomical prices received for some of the works, commenting that Latin American art obtained among the highest bids. The record went to Pedro Figari’s Creole Woman that sold for 67,000fr [sic], which was only beaten by Van Dongen’s portrait of Anatole France. Malfatti’s Figure went to the French state for 2000fr and Amaral’s Composition was sold to a French collector for 3300.50 This emphasis on sales, without so much as a comment on the quality of the work, served to perpetuate this notion of a debt owed to France by foreign artists.

29Not all reviews of the show supported this notion of debt, however. Writing for L’Art Vivant, Georges Charensol points out the chauvinism inherent in the premise of the exhibition :

  • 51 Charensol, “Les Expositions,” L’Art vivant, no. Nov. 5 (1926), p. 831-32.

The Salon de France raises one more time the question of the School of Paris. Is it appropriate to make a distinction between our artists and foreigners who are working here ? The committee of the Salon de France answers in the affirmative, but their point of view is too particular to be adopted by an art critic whose mission is to understand the works and not the men who make them…The organizers of the Salon de France estimate that the foreign artists that live among us have contracted a debt to France – a debt that they have been asked to pay back with a painting or a sculpture. Did they not prefer our country to theirs ? For me this reason is judgmental, in any case, one will not find demonstrations of xenophobia penned by me.51

30This exhibition put foreign artists in a bit of a bind. To protest or to not participate would have been to shun a perceived debt, but to partake was in a sense a self-othering, an acceptance of foreignness as a defining characteristic of artistic production.

  • 52 Golan, Modernity and Nostalgia, 153 ft nt 50. Golan cites and translates George “Ecole Française ou (...)
  • 53 George wrote “The Ecole de Paris is a neologism, a new accession. This term, which dominates the wo (...)
  • 54 Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris, L’Ecole de Paris, 1904-1929, 38. Peintres italiens de Par (...)
  • 55 For a discussion of performing the self as an emmigré artist see Kenneth E. Silver “Made in Paris” (...)

31The debates about the place of foreign artists in Paris raged in the press throughout the second half of the 1920s and into the 1930s, and as xenophobia mounted throughout Europe more and more critics such as Waldemar George and André Salmon revoked their support of the School of Paris, even as a separate but valid entity, instead promoting the purification of the French tradition in the arts.52 For George the Ecole de Paris allowed “any artist to pretend he is French” and this emulation of the French tradition actually served to dilute it.53 Throughout this period exhibitions organized around national identity proliferated, framed on either end by two exhibitions of Latin American art : “The Exposition d'art Américain-Latin” at the Musée Galliera in 1924 and the “Exposition du groupe latino-américain de Paris” in 1930.54 In this context artists could not just create art without considering how their choices of style and subject matter positioned them. Artists thus had to make a choice to strategically align themselves with nationalism, regionalism, or universalism, and to carefully consider the implications of the organizational principles of group exhibitions. Whereas many chose to perform their foreignness to exploit French fascination with the exotic, others disavowed any connection to regional identities instead exploring theories of universalism.55

The Salon des Surindépendants and the Salon des Vrais Indépendants

32Another survival mechanism, which dates back to the French Salon des Refusés of 1863, was to defect. If artists did not agree with the terms put forth by the Salon des Indépendants, they could create their own alternative salons with their own standards. In the fall of 1928 two new salons were inaugurated that explicitly challenged in their titles the restrictions imposed at the 1924 Salon des Indépendants : the Salon des Vrais Indépendants and the Salon des Surindépendants (Imagen 13). These new salons took place simultaneously at the Parc des Expositions at the Porte de Versailles each year until 1930 when the Surindépendants, which had distinguished itself as the more progressive of the two, moved to Montparnasse on the Boulevard Raspail. Like the original Salon des Indépendants these salons were open and not juried ; their only criteria was that organizers expected members to exhibit there exclusively and not participate in any other juried or invitational salons.

Imagen 13 – Tériade, E. “A Travers Les Salons-Tendances de la Surindépendance.” L’Intransigeant, October 26, 1931 : 5.

  • 56 André Fage, Le Collectionneur de peintures modernes : Comment acheter, comment vendre, La Collectio (...)
  • 57 Louis Leon-Martin, “Aujourd’hui s’ouvre l’exposition des ‘vrais indépendants’ les novateurs paraiss (...)
  • 58 Of the Independent salons (true or false, international or French), we know of three already.Warnod (...)
  • 59 Raymond Cogniat, “La Vie artistique : Le salon des surindépendants,” Revue de L’Amérique Latine vol (...)

33What distinguished these salons, however, was that organizers returned to hanging artwork by style, not by national identity. Not only did these salons disavow national identity as an organizational mechanism, but as André Fage wrote, they also served as a protest against the averageness of the Independent salon, which has been “invaded by cosmopolitan mediocrity which confuses painting with mystification and hides its impotence behind a pretentious eccentricity.”56 The first exhibition of the Vrai Indépendants included 593 paintings and drawings, that were displayed in three rooms : one that focused on avant-garde works, described in Paris-Soir as primarily post-Cubists and surrealists in style, one of works inspired by Impressionism, and a final room of more traditional paintings.57 In his review André Warnod called the formation of these salons a “war cry,” commenting on their deliberate affront to the original independent salon.58 And Cogniat complained “perhaps Latin American artists were numerous ; unfortunately the absence of an indication of nationality in the catalogue did not permit us to know exactly.”59 Whereas this lack of labels made Cogniat’s job of reviewing Latin American art more difficult, it served the very deliberate purpose of confounding distinctions between French and foreign artists. Organized in this way, the art could be judged only on its aesthetic merits, not on the national identity of its maker. Extensive press coverage – reviews appeared in Comoedia, Paris-Soir, Petit Parisien, Journal des Debats, Eve, and La Revue de l’Amérique Latine – soon made these salons a viable alternative for artists.

  • 60 André Warnod, “Deux salons ‘indépendants’ s’ouvrent aujourd’jui : Les Surindépendants ou le petit s (...)
  • 61 Cogniat, “La Vie artistique : Le salon des surindépendants,”, p. 263.
  • 62 “Le Salon des vrais independents,” Eve, November 18, 1928, 3. I have not been able to identify whic (...)
  • 63 Cogniat, “La Vie artistique : Le salon des surindépendants,”, p. 263.

34While certainly not all the works exhibited were avant-garde, these salons quickly became a new space for experimental art and the battle between surrealism and constructivism played out in their halls. As Warnod wrote “We have found that many of the exhibitors have a taste for adventure and risk…The Salon des Surindépendants owes much of its interest to being a sort of laboratory and not at all a painting faire,”60 and Cogniat called them a “refuge of the extreme avant-garde.”61 The most progressive Latin American artists soon recognized the merit of exhibiting there. Tarsila do Amaral was the only Latin American artist to exhibit in the avant-garde room at the Vrai Indépendants in 1928 with a painting that critics called an “amusing fantasy.”62 The following year, however, Vicente do Rego Monteiro, Eduardo Abela, and Joaquín Torres García showed at the Salon des Surindépendants (while Amaral stuck with the Vrai Indépendants for one more year before switching to the Surindépendants) and in 1930 they were joined by Manuel Rendón Seminario and Pablo Curatella Manes, who showed his Group of Acrobats (Imagen 14) that Cogniat called the best in the exhibition.63

Imagen 14 – Curatella Manes, Pablo (1891-1962), Group of Acrobats, ca. 1923, bronze. Current location of this casting unknown (several versions exist). Reproduced in Maurice Raynal, Pablo Curatella Manés (Oslo, 1948).

  • 64 For on Manuel Rendón Seminario see Juan Castro y Velázquez, Manuel Rendón Seminario, 1894-1980 : Ca (...)

35Among Rendón’s submissions was a painting of an imaginary map that dealt with globalism and transatlantic contact, which most likely resembled works such as The Geography Map of 1928 (Imagen 15).64 Here, Rendón deploys the uncanny quality of surrealism to question the accepted logic of cartographic techniques. Positioned in the center is a shape resembling the outline of a country on a modern map, but framed within that implied country is a cropped world map, with South and Central America, Europe, and Africa clearly labeled. By inscribing the continents within the imaginary nation, Rendón reverses traditional geographic hierarchies of space and scale. Superimposed on the map is what appears to be a blue leaf covered with a network of linear veins. A comparable blue shape next to it can perhaps be read as a shadow. The leaf and its shadow simultaneously connect and obscure the continents below as if suggesting the interconnected, yet never fully translatable nature of transnationalism. Rendón also endows the imagined nation with an anthropomorphic quality, painting hair like protuberances on top and nestling it in a hilly landscape like a head on shoulders. The nation thus takes on a bizarrely exaggerated importance in relation to the world and the individual.

Imagen 15 – Rendón Seminario, Manuel (1894-1980), The Geography Map, 1928, Oil on canvas, 39 1/3 x 31 7/8 in. (100 x 81 cm). Private collection, Paris.

  • 65 Paul Fierens, “L’Exposition des surindépendants,” Journal des debats, November 18, 1930, 3.
  • 66 Cogniat, “La Vie artistique : Le salon des surindépendants,”, p. 263. Italics are mine.

36These maps caught the attention of Paul Fierens who commented, “Rendon dreams of beautiful voyages by copying geographic maps that he animates with schematized figures.”65 But for Cogniat, who knew of Rendón Ecuadorian origin, Rendón’s maps conjured notions of the exotic. He seems to have mistaken Rendón’s experiments with surrealism for a fantastic quality presumably stemming from his “foreignness.” He therefore missed Rendón’s critique of cartography’s imposition of hierarchies of value and instead employs a rhetoric of the “other” to describe Rendón’s paintings, commenting on their “ardent coloration,” “idiosyncrasy,” “strange atmosphere,” and “hot tonalities.”66 By using this language, Cogniat effectively relegates these images to the realm of the exotic without taking seriously their critical inversion of cartographic categories.

37Whereas in 1929 more than half the Salon des Surindépendants was dedicated to surrealism, the tide began to shift by 1931. That year Torres García and several other constructivists, after their debut at Cercle et Carré 1930, exhibited there en masse. Torres García and Rendón Seminario, were among the most experimental artists of the late 1920s and represent the two poles in the debate between surrealism and constructivism, which took place in part at the Salon des Surindépendants. Its organization by style rather than national identity focused on visual parity and common aims rather than cultural difference. Artists sharing a regional identity were therefore not awkwardly forced into the same aesthetic category and could instead represent diametrically opposed approaches. While the Salon des Vrais Indépendants diminished in importance, the Salon des Surindépendants continued to be a place of aesthetic experimentation until at least the mid-1930s when new artists such as Argentine Nina Negri entered the playing field.

38The various Paris salons were an important proving ground for Latin American artists. In addition to providing an infrastructure that simply did not exist at home, these salons allowed artists to test new ideas and garner reviews that would help establish their reputation at home and abroad. Moreover, these artists understood the implications and parameters of exhibiting at the different salons and often selected their venue accordingly, strategically positioning themselves as traditional, anti-academic, or avant-garde. Latin American artists were not immune to the conflicts that plagued the independent salon in the 1920s, however ; and many took a stand in the face of increasing xenophobia by exhibiting elsewhere or creating their own exhibition opportunities. As the decade progressed, the sway of the traditional salons in the sale of artwork decreased, and artists began to depend more and more on dealers and galleries for the sale and display of their work. Yet these venues continued to function in tandem, with a positive review at the salon often leading to a gallery show, or simply additional exposure for established artists.

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Notes

1 This essay is a condensed version of a single chapter in the book Michele Greet, Transatlantic Encounters : Latin American Artists in Paris between the Wars (Yale University Press : forthcoming 2018). The book provides a larger context and bibliography for the events described here. Because of space and time limitations, this essay does not attempt to describe the circumstances in these artists’ home countries, which many scholars of Latin American art have already done adeptly, or to trace their critical reception at home.

2 For a discussion of the French Salons see Claire Maingon, L’âge critique des salons 1914-1925 : l’école française, la tradition et l’art moderne (Mont-Saint-Aignan : Presses universitaires de Rouen et du Havre, 2014).

3 See, for example, Marta Penhos, Diana Wechsler, and Miguel Angel Muñoz, Tras los pasos de la norma : salones nacionales de bellas artes (1911-1989) (Buenos Aires : Ediciones del Jilguero, 1999).

4 Christopher Green, Art in France : 1900-1940, Yale University Press Pelican History of Art (New Haven, CT : Yale University Press, 2000).

5 By counting those artists listed in the Revue de l’Amérique Latine between 1923 and 1932 and those who self reported participation in secondary sources I have identified 64 Latin American artists who participated in the Société des artistes français and 35 who participated in the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts salons in the 1920s and 1930s, but there were most likely many more. I also reviewed annals for the Société des artistes français between 1927 and 1930, but was unable to obtain the years prior to 1927. For complete list see http://chnm.gmu.edu/transatlanticencounters/

6 Napoleon Bonaparte established the Legion of Honor, the highest decoration in France, in 1802. The Order is divided into five levels : Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer), Commandeur (Commander), Grand Officier (Grand Officer) and Grand Croix (Grand Cross). It may be awarded to foreign nationals who have served France or the ideals it upholds. Latin American artists awarded the French Legion of Honor included Juan Emilio Hernández Giro (1924), Alberto Valenzuela Llanos (1924 ?), Angel Zárraga (1927), Marco Tobón Mejía (1928), Gaston de Fonseca (1929), Tito Salas (1932), Victor Brecheret (1933), Pablo Mañé (1934), Carlos Alberto Castellanos (1937), and Pablo Curatella Manes (1939).

7 Raymond Cogniat, “La Vie artistique : Les salons, société nationale des beaux-arts,” Revue de L’Amérique Latine Vol. 12, n° 55, Jul. 1 (1926), p. 67.

8 Raymond Cogniat, “Les Salons,” Revue de L’Amérique Latine vol.15, n° 78, Jun. 1 (1928), p. 553.

9 Raymond Cogniat, “La Vie artistique : Le salon,” Revue de L’Amérique Latine Vol 19, n°102, Jun. 1 (1930), p. 548.

10 Cogniat, “La Vie artistique : Les salons, société nationale des beaux-arts,”, p. 68.

11 Ibid.

12 For more on Tobón Mejía see Jorge Cárdenas, Vida y obra de Marco Tobón Mejía, Vida y obra : Artistas antioqueños ; 1 (Medellín, Colombia : Museo de Antioquia, 1987).

13 “Une Oeuvre de M. Tobón Mejia,” Revue de L’Amérique Latine Supplément Illustré, Jul. 1 (1930), p. viii.

14 Cogniat, “La Vie artistique : Les salons, société nationale des beaux-arts,”, p. 68.

15 Anecdote recounted in Jorge Cárdenas, Vida y obra de Marco Tobón Mejía, Vida y obra : Artistas antioqueños ; 1 (Medellín, Colombia : Museo de Antioquia, 1987), p. 30.

16 The Independent, Automn, and Tuileries salon all took place at the Palais de Bois, creating an even greater divide with the official salons that exhibited at Grand Palais. Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel, Géopolitique des avant-gardes  : une histoire socioculturelle de la scène avant-gardiste européenne, 1848-1968, Folio Histoire (Paris : Gallimard, publication pending), p. 133.

17 César Vallejo, Artículos y crónicas completos (Lima : Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, 2002), p. 76. Originally published in “Salón de las tullerías de Paría” Alfar, n° 44, La Coruña, Nov. 1924.

18 See website for complete list http://chnm.gmu.edu/transatlanticencounters/

19 The Tuileries only accepted 500 paintings per year as compared to the 1200 shown at the Salon d’Automne.

20 For more on Anita Malfatti see Marta Rossetti Batista, Anita Malfatti : no tempo e no espaço (São Paulo : Editora 34 : EDUSP, 2006). See also Ana Paula Cavalcanti Simioni, « Le modernisme brésilien, entre consécration et contestation », Perspective http://perspective.revues.org/3893

21 Pablo Curatella Manes, Curatella Manes (Buenos Aires : Zurbarán Ediciones, 1998).

22 Raymond Cogniat, “La Vie artistique : Les artistes américains au Salon d’Automne,” Revue de L’Amérique Latine Vol.10, n° 48 (December 1, 1925), p. 545.

23 Cogniat, “La Vie artistique : Les artistes américains au salon d’automne,” 1925, 551.

24 For Victor Brecheret see Daisy V. M. Peccinini de Alvarado, Brecheret e a Escola de Paris = Brecheret et L’École de Paris (São Paulo  : IVB  : FM Editorial, 2011). For more on Argentine artists in Paris : María Elena Babino, El grupo de París, Los papeles del CVAA ; (Buenos Aires Ministerio de Cultura [u.a.], 2010). And Patricia Artundo and Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, Artistas Modernos Rioplatenses en Europa 1911-1924 : La Experiencia de la vanguardia (Buenos Aires : MALBA, Colección Costantini, 2002).

25 Cogniat, “La Vie artistique : Les artistes américains au Salon d’Automne,”, p. 545.

26 http://www.corpusetampois.com/cae-20-doucefrance1925monument.html

27 Waldemar George, “Le Salon des Tuileries,” L’Amour de l’art, n.d., p. 235. Maurice Raynal, “Le Salon des Tuileries,” L’Intransigeant, May 29 (1925), p. 5.

28 André Lhote, “La Obra de Pablo Curatella Manes,” El Hogar, Jan. 15, 1926, p. 38.

29 José D. Frías quoted in Armando Maribona, El Arte y el amor en Montparnasse : Documental novelado, París, 1923-1930 (Mexíco : Ediciones Botas, 1950), p. 78.

30 Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris, L’Ecole de Paris, 1904-1929 : la part de l’Autre (Paris : Paris musées, 2000), p. 31.

31 Unfortunately, it is impossible to tell from the catalog where each artist’s work was hung, but Cogniat commented on how the new organization made it so much easier to identify Latin American artists. Raymond Cogniat, “La Vie artistique : Les américains au salon des indépendants,” Revue de L’Amérique Latine vol.7, n° 29, May 1 (1924), p. 432–434.

32 Ibid. p. 433.

33 Maribona, El Arte y el amor en Montparnasse, p. 115.

34 Quoted in Ibid. p. 112.

35 Ibid. p. 113, 115.

36 Some noteworthy Latin American artists at the Salon des indepéndants included Rodolfo Alcorta, Victor Brecheret, Manuel Cabré, Carlos Alberto Castellaños, Jaime Colson, Vicente do Rego Monteiro, Anita Malfatti, Pablo Curatella Manes, Manuel Rendón Seminario, Rómulo Rozo, and many others. For a complete list see http://chnm.gmu.edu/transatlanticencounters/

37 Maribona, El Arte y el amor en Montparnasse, p. 117.

38 “Beaux-Arts : Le 35e salon des artistes indépendants,” Comoedia, February 10, 1924.

39 For more on Vicente do Rego Monteiro see Walter Zanini, Vicente do Rego Monteiro : artista e poeta (São Paulo : Empresa das Artes  : Marigo Editora, 1997).

40 That year he also published a book of prints Legendes croyances et talismans des indiens de l'amazone [Legends, Beliefs, and Talismans of the Amazon Indians].

41 For a discussion of the Brazilian sources present in The Hunt see Edith Wolfe, “Paris as Periphery : Vicente Do Rego Monteiro and Brazil’s Discrepant Cosmopolitanism,” Art Bulletin XCVI, n° 1 (March 2014), p. 102-103.

42 Ibid. p. 102.

43 André Warnod, Les Berceaux de la jeune peinture : Montmartre, Montparnasse. (Paris, A. Michel, 1925), p. 7-8. See also André Warnod Comoedia, Jan 27, 1925 cited in Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris, L’Ecole de Paris, 1904-1929, p. 88.

44 For an extensive discussion of the School of Paris see Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris, L’Ecole de Paris, 1904-1929.

45 Paris Midi, Oct. 22, 1926 quoted in Juan Fride, Luis Alberto Acuña : Pintor colombiano (Bogotá : Editorial Amerindia, n.d.), p. 20.

46 Ibid. p. 20.

47 Romy Golan, Modernity and Nostalgia : Art and Politics in France Between the Wars (New Haven : Yale University Press, 1995), p. 139. It is hard to determine where these pieces actually ended up because it seems that throughout the 1920s the annex was still referred to as part of the Musée du Luxembourg, so even works hung at the Jeu de Paume were reportedly acquired by the Luxembourg. Latin American artists whose work was acquired by the Musée du Luxembourg included Carlos Alberto Castellanos (acquired 3 works in 1919), Alberto Valenzuela Llanos (acquired Romeros en Flor in 1924), José Antonio Terry (acquired La Enana Chepa and Sac ruche in 1924), Luis Alberto Acuña (acquired Nessus séduisant Déjanire in 1926), Rómulo Rozo (acquired sculpture in 1928) as well as works by Martin Benito Quinquela (Tormenta en el Astillero), Samson Flexor, and Alberto Lagos. It was not until the 1930s that artists reported that their works were purchased by the Jeu de Paume, which acquired Victor Brecheret’s O Grupo in 1934 and a work by Mario Carreño in ca. 1939.

48 “Art-Lovers Flock To Salon du France,” New York Herald, October 23, 1926, 5.

49 Vanderpyl, “Le Salon du France,” Petit Parisien, Oct. 21, 1926.

50 “L’Amérique Latine : Arts et lettres,” New York Herald, October 31, 1926, 5. While the number printed in the paper was indeed 67,000 fr, that seems to be an astronomical amount. While I have no evidence to confirm this, I wonder if it is perhaps a typo and the actual amount should have been 6700 fr.

51 Charensol, “Les Expositions,” L’Art vivant, no. Nov. 5 (1926), p. 831-32.

52 Golan, Modernity and Nostalgia, 153 ft nt 50. Golan cites and translates George “Ecole Française ou Ecole de Paris” Formes, Part I (June 1931), p. 92-93 ; Part II (July 1931), p. 110-11.

53 George wrote “The Ecole de Paris is a neologism, a new accession. This term, which dominates the world art market, is a conscious example of premeditated conspiracy against the notion of a School of France. It not only takes into consideration foreign contributions ; it ratifies them and grants them a leading position. It is a rather subtle, hypocritical sign of the spirit of Francophobia. It allows any artist to pretend he is French…It has no legitimacy. It refers to French tradition but it in fact annihilates it…Shouldn’t France repudiate the works that weaken her genius ?...The Ecole de Paris is a house of cards build in Montparnasse…Its ideology is oriented against that of the French School…The moment has come for France to turn in upon herself and to find in her own soil the seeds of her salvation.” Ibid.

54 Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris, L’Ecole de Paris, 1904-1929, 38. Peintres italiens de Paris (Salon de l’Escalier), 1928 ; Un groupe d’Italiens de Paris (Galerie Zak, 1929) ; Exposition d’art polonais moderne (en fait les Polonais travaillant à Paris, Éditions Bonaparte, 1929) ; Les Artistes juifs de Paris (Galerie Billiet à Zurich à l’occasion du Congrès sioniste de 1929) ; Artistes américains de Paris (galerie de la Renaissance, 1932). This emphasis on national artistic traditions persisted in the 1930s with exhibitions at the Jeu de Paume of Modern Italian Art (1935), Contemporary Spanish Art (1936), Catalan Art (1937), Three Centuries of Art from the USA (1938 with MoMA), Art in Latvia (1939). See Bouvet, Paris Between the Wars, 1919-1939, p. 226.

55 For a discussion of performing the self as an emmigré artist see Kenneth E. Silver “Made in Paris” in Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris, L’Ecole de Paris, 1904-1929, 41.

56 André Fage, Le Collectionneur de peintures modernes : Comment acheter, comment vendre, La Collection des collectionneurs 1 (Paris : Éditions pittoresques, 1930), p. 241.

57 Louis Leon-Martin, “Aujourd’hui s’ouvre l’exposition des ‘vrais indépendants’ les novateurs paraissent se soucier surtout de l’effet décoratif,” Paris-Soir, October 27, 1928. André Warnod, “Beaux-Arts ce qu’on verra au salon des ‘vrais indépendants,’” Comoedia, October 24, 1928. Warnod describes the division of the salon into avant-grade, impressionist, and traditional rooms.

58 Of the Independent salons (true or false, international or French), we know of three already.Warnod, “Beaux-Arts ce qu’on verra au salon des ‘vrais indépendants,’” 1-2.

59 Raymond Cogniat, “La Vie artistique : Le salon des surindépendants,” Revue de L’Amérique Latine vol. 20, n° 105, no. Sept. 1 (1930), p. 263.

60 André Warnod, “Deux salons ‘indépendants’ s’ouvrent aujourd’jui : Les Surindépendants ou le petit salon plus riches qu’un grand/Les vrais Indépendants continuent les traditions des peintres du dimanche,” Comoedia, Oct. 23, 1931, p. 1-2.

61 Cogniat, “La Vie artistique : Le salon des surindépendants,”, p. 263.

62 “Le Salon des vrais independents,” Eve, November 18, 1928, 3. I have not been able to identify which painting she submitted.

63 Cogniat, “La Vie artistique : Le salon des surindépendants,”, p. 263.

64 For on Manuel Rendón Seminario see Juan Castro y Velázquez, Manuel Rendón Seminario, 1894-1980 : Catálogo Razonado (Guayaquil, Ecuador : Comité del Centenario del Nacimiento del Pintor Manuel Rendón Seminario, 1995).

65 Paul Fierens, “L’Exposition des surindépendants,” Journal des debats, November 18, 1930, 3.

66 Cogniat, “La Vie artistique : Le salon des surindépendants,”, p. 263. Italics are mine.

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Table des illustrations

Légende Imagen 1 – Cossío del Pomar, Felipe (1889-1981), Descendants of the Incas, ca. 1930, Oil on canvas. Current location unknown. Reproduced in 1930 Société des Artistes Français catalogue.
URL http://nuevomundo.revues.org/docannexe/image/70847/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 476k
Légende Imagen 2 – Fossa-Calderon, Julio (1874-1946), The White Dress, ca. 1929, Oil on canvas. Current location unknown. Reproduced in 1929 Société des Artistes Français catalogue.
URL http://nuevomundo.revues.org/docannexe/image/70847/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 896k
Légende Imagen 3 – Mazilier, Carmen, Gaucho on the Pampa, ca. 1928, Plaster. Current location unknown. Reproduced in 1928 Société des Artistes Français catalogue.
URL http://nuevomundo.revues.org/docannexe/image/70847/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 432k
Légende Imagen 4 – Tobón Mejía, Marco (1876-1933), Anguished Solitude : for the monument to the poet José Asunción Silva, ca. 1929, Plaster. Reproduced in 1929 Société des Artistes Français catalogue.
URL http://nuevomundo.revues.org/docannexe/image/70847/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 376k
Légende Imagen 5 – Ortiz de Zárate, Manuel (1886-1946), Still Life with Guitar, ca. 1920s, Oil on canvas, 28 3/4 x 45 2/3 in. (73 x 116 cm). Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.
URL http://nuevomundo.revues.org/docannexe/image/70847/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 4,2M
Légende Imagen 6 – Toledo-Piza, Domingos Viegas (1887-1945), Still Life, n.d. Oil on canvas, 18 1/8 x 21 2/3 in. (46 x 55 cm). Private collection.
URL http://nuevomundo.revues.org/docannexe/image/70847/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 260k
Légende Imagen 7 – Malfatti, Anita (1889-1964), Church Interior, 1924, Oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 21 1/4 in. (65 x 54 cm). Private collection.
URL http://nuevomundo.revues.org/docannexe/image/70847/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 540k
Légende Imagen 8 – Malfatti, Anita (1889-1964), Woman from Para, ca. 1927, Oil on canvas, 31 1/2 x 25 1/2 in. (80 x 65 cm). Private collection.
URL http://nuevomundo.revues.org/docannexe/image/70847/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 3,0M
Légende Imagen 9 – Curatella Manes, Pablo (1891-1962), Lancelot of the Lake and Queen Guinevere, 1925, Terracotta, 25 1/2 x 17 in. (65 x 43 cm). Private collection.
URL http://nuevomundo.revues.org/docannexe/image/70847/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 780k
Légende Imagen 10 – Rego Monteiro, Vicente do (1899-1970), The Hunt, 1923, Oil on canvas, 70 1/2 x 102 in. (202 x 259.2 cm). Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.
URL http://nuevomundo.revues.org/docannexe/image/70847/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 6,3M
Légende Imagen 11 – Rego Monteiro, Vicente do (1899-1970), Woman Before a Mirror, 1922, Oil on canvas, 38 1/2 x 27 1/8 in. (98 x 69 cm). Private collection.
URL http://nuevomundo.revues.org/docannexe/image/70847/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 7,8M
Légende Imagen 12 – Acuña, Luis Alberto (1904-1993), Nessus Seducing Deianira, 1926, Oil on canvas, Formerly Musée de Jeu de Paume, Paris, current location unknown.
URL http://nuevomundo.revues.org/docannexe/image/70847/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,1M
Légende Imagen 13 – Tériade, E. “A Travers Les Salons-Tendances de la Surindépendance.” L’Intransigeant, October 26, 1931 : 5.
URL http://nuevomundo.revues.org/docannexe/image/70847/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 256k
Légende Imagen 14 – Curatella Manes, Pablo (1891-1962), Group of Acrobats, ca. 1923, bronze. Current location of this casting unknown (several versions exist). Reproduced in Maurice Raynal, Pablo Curatella Manés (Oslo, 1948).
URL http://nuevomundo.revues.org/docannexe/image/70847/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 936k
Légende Imagen 15 – Rendón Seminario, Manuel (1894-1980), The Geography Map, 1928, Oil on canvas, 39 1/3 x 31 7/8 in. (100 x 81 cm). Private collection, Paris.
URL http://nuevomundo.revues.org/docannexe/image/70847/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,9M
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Référence électronique

Michele Greet, « An International Proving Ground : Latin American Artists at the Paris Salons », Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos [En ligne], Images, mémoires et sons, mis en ligne le 06 juin 2017, consulté le 28 juin 2017. URL : http://nuevomundo.revues.org/70847

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Auteur

Michele Greet

Director, Art History Program, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
mgreet@gmu.edu

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Droits d’auteur

Licence Creative Commons
Nuevo mundo mundos nuevos est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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