French Modernisms: Perspectives on Art before, during and after Vichy
(Cambridge University Press, 2001)
This text is both a sequel to the exploration of free and applied art that I undertook in Artists under Vichy, and an expansion of its chronological scope. From the first essay, a discussion of a highly restrictive exhibition of modern French art held in Nazi Berlin in 1937 to the last one, a meditation on a poster of May 68 showing Hitler as a double of de Gaulle, I have tried to home in on events and images that connect art and politics in France.
Although I show that the Vichy epoch brought racism and xenophobia to exceptional heights, I also show that the premise underlying the defense of the beautiful tree of French art during Vichy -- namely that art must protect itself against a dangerous virus -- dies hard in France, and always seems to find a new foe. In the postwar years it seems to have been Expressionism, and particularly American Abstract Expressionism. I also point out that resistance to this artistic isolationism often goes unrewarded, and that May '68 leaves an ambiguous trace with regards to a more internationalist outlook.
In the end, this book tends to refute the view that the invasion of the Paris artworld by American art, masterminded by the CIA, was solely responsible for why Paris could not resist the assault of new American art in the postwar years. It proposes that the parisian art establishment caused its own downfall by continuing to abide by ideas dominant during Vichy (1940-1944)-- issues of national identity and national tradition, and fear of the vampiric "other" (the American invader holding a menorah whose caricature is found in the essay on antisemitic art criticism).
Artists under Vichy. A Case of Prejudice and Persecution
(Princeton University Press, 1992), a revised version of a Ph.D. thesis entitled Art and Politics in France, 1940-1944 (UMI, 1988).
The Roots and Routes of Art in the 20th Century
(Horizon Press, 1975)