The period between the wars seems, at first sight, to be a meager period for art. The First World War had left Europe virtually bloodless - how many future geniuses disappeared in the trenches? On the other hand there were new realities in a changed world that artists were going to have to face - the euphoria of victory, and the boom in technical progress. Many of the great artists were already on the scene: Pablo Picasso, for example, and Henri Matisse, who was well advanced in his pursuit of line and form when the war broke out; he was painting Piano Lesson in 1916, the year of Verdun. Forced to turn his attention to the realities threatened by humankind, his vision became less severe.
But Matisse is not typical: the life of the Montparnasse-centered Paris School of the 1920s and 1930s - almost all of whom were foreigners - was spare and stricken by a kind of joyful poverty. Montparnasse had cheap hotels, studios for rent - and other painters, already there. In many ways it was a golden age: the same café table might hold Kisling, or Picasso, together with other personalities such as the famous fawn-eyed model Kiki or Amadeo Modigliani. Then there was Soutine, the painter of fermentation and love, and the Russian Jew Marc Chagall, who conceived his subjects on several levels at once. Above all there was diversity - perhaps impelled by the Depression and the inner knowledge that institutions weren't working. Le Corbusier and Ozenfant tried to combine geometry and figures. A new movement, Purism, attempted to go beyond the Cubists. Another minor school centered on the mystical association of the circle and the square, an ancient Chinese idea. Then Hitler marched into the Sudetenland and the new reality was with them all. The film also features the work of Pascin, Foujita, Léger, Gorin, Herbin, Helion, Arp, Dali and others.
Part of the series The Adventure of Modern Art
Director: Carlos Vilardebo Writers/Narration: André Parinaud: Carlos Vilardebo