Exhibitions New Nations and the HUman Factor

Recordings of the CRAACE conference Exhibitions, New Nations and the Human Factor

The CRAACE conference Exhibitions, New Nations and the Human Factor, 1873–1939 took place at the Institut national d’histoire de l’art in Paris on 4–5 April 2022. Focusing on world’s fairs and international exhibitions, it looked beyond their official, state-sponsored aims and considered the role of individuals and groups in them. Who were the people who organised them, designed them, worked in them and visited them? The conference placed agency at the heart of the discussion. To what extent did those involved adhere to or challenge the ostensible purpose of these events?

For those who missed the conference or would like to revisit the talks, we will make recordings of the individual sessions available on Youtube for a limited time. The sessions will be posted below on this page one by one as they become available, so watch this space.

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Artwork of the Month, April 2022: The Manual Workers and the Intellectuals by János Mattis-Teutsch (1927)

Few artists moved between worlds as much as the painter and sculptor János Mattis-Teutsch (1884–1960), who was born in Brașov (Hung.: Brassó, Ger.: Kronstadt), but spent considerable time in Budapest, Bucharest, Munich, Paris and Berlin. This demonstrates the mobility of artists in Central Europe before and after the First World War, but it especially showcases the variety of artistic developments that ran throughout Europe since the early twentieth century. No matter which influence he followed, Mattis-Teutsch aimed at expressing the inner spirit of the human soul. He was close to Expressionist, spiritual and, later, Constructivist tendencies, on which he always put his own stamp, with a desire to unite ethical and aesthetic values. Reconciliation is also the theme of the painting presented here, The Manual Workers and the Intellectuals (1927), which marks a seldom-noted phase of his work towards the end of the 1920s, when the social aspirations of his art came into their own particularly strongly. Following artists such as Sándor Bortnyik (1893–1976), he sought to add a human touch to Constructivism. His ethereal figures represent generally human principles for a ‘New Man’ who was to move in the idealised space of a new society. The term ‘New Man’ gathered a wide variety of utopian ideas for the transformation of the human being in the interwar period, and found frequent expression in art.[1]

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Toyen: The Paradise of the Blacks, 1925

Artwork of the Month, March 2022: The Paradise of the Blacks by Toyen (1925)

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, a negrophile is ‘someone (especially a white person) who is very sympathetic to or supportive of Black people, their culture, or their rights and interests.’[1] The levels of sympathy and support may, indeed, differ and be open to interpretation. Negrophilia, then, is the attraction to Black culture and Black people, often linked to the fascination of the interwar avant-garde with Africans and African Americans in European metropolises.[2] Between the wars, Black culture became a subject of inspiration, captivation but mostly exploitation by many writers, poets, painters, musicians, or dancers from Paris to Prague.

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Statement of solidarity with Ukraine

On 24 February 2022 Russian troops crossed the border with Ukraine in what the Russian government described as a ‘special military operation’ to ‘liberate’ Ukrainians from supposed oppression by ‘Nazis’ and ‘thugs.’ As now know, this ‘operation’ was intended, it seems, to overthrow the current Ukrainian government, replace it with a more compliant régime and, through the display of military force, to cow Ukrainians into submission. It hardly needs to be said that we condemn this disgraceful action by the Russian government. 

In a fast changing situation, it would be foolish to anticipate the eventual outcome. Currently, peace talks are underway, and we can only hope that this pointless violence will be quickly brought to an end and an equitable solution can be found. At present we can only express our admiration for the enormous bravery of Ukrainians in facing down this appalling aggression.

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