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This website is related to the Curtis Institute of Music's 201011 all-school study, the Paris Project.
Selected Artists and Their Native Countries
More on Paris Between the Wars Online
1918: The Allies and Germany sign an armistice, ending World War I.
1939: Britain and France declare war on Germany.
In between: Paris is a crucible of culture, mixing the music, writing, design, ideas, fine art, and fashion of artists from America, Russia, Germany, Spain, Belgium, and elsewhere in Europe with those of native Frenchmen.
Rendering of a postcard of Montmartre, Paris, 1925
The city and the middle class are on the rise. Leisure is law, as the eight-hour day is mandated in 1919. Welcome to the Parisian cabaret and sidewalk café, the cinema, theatre, art galleries, exhibitions, and boutiques. Spectacles spew excess in the 1920s. Dada, Futurism, Surrealism, and Cubism show the world not as the sharp-edged reality of the war just ended, but through filters that warp, reshape, and reimagine art, thought, and life.
Concert series and institutions devoted to new music abound, even as public tastes steer toward the conservative. A cluster of composers united at the conservatory defy a single, common characterization as their styles exert individual aesthetic traits. Neo-Classicism looks at the past in a contemporary light. Opera and ballet mingle on stage, just as its creative teams draw musicians, artists, and writers into rich collaborations. American jazz seeps into night clubs and sidles into concert halls.Back to top
Paris hosts international exhibitions, their topics and circumstances revealing the changing times, as the mood shifts from euphoric to ominous.
The 1925 Exposition de Arts Décoratifs draws modern designs from twenty-one nations, described by Carol Mann in Paris: Artistic Life in the Twenties and Thirties (Laurence King) as "defining a style that was also a way of life in a modern society beyond wars and revolution. ... Its jumble of Art Nouveau sinuosity, Ballets Russes gaudiness, and Cubist angularity have come to symbolize design for the whole period."
The 1931 Exhibition Internationale Coloniale looks to Africa and Asia to show "colonial style."
By the 1937 Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la vie Moderne, the spotlight shines on art and science in the modern world. But the true drama comes from fear as hard to ignore as the imposing Russian and German pavilions that face each other, not far from the Eiffel Tower. In the Spanish pavilion, Picasso's Guernica gives current events a canvas, as he responds to the fresh conflicts between Spanish rebels and Nazi allies.Back to top
Paris the Luminous Years: Toward the Making of the Modern, article and video (PBS, 1:56:00)
WATCH: Seeing Paris #1 1920s, a tour of Paris landmarks by Burton Holmes (Travel Film Archive, 4:09)Back to top
PRINT AND ELECTRONIC RESOURCES ON INTERWAR PARIS AND THE ARTS
Grove Music Online, The Oxford Companion to Music, and The Oxford Dictionary of Music
Jackson, Jeffrey H., Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris (Durham: Duke UP, 2003)
Mann, Carol, Paris: Artistic Life in the Twenties and Thirties (London: Laurence King, 1996)
Nichols, Roger, The Harlequin Years: Music in Paris 19171929 (Berkeley: UCalifornia P, 2002)
Shack, William A., Harlem in Montmartre: A Paris Jazz Story between the Great Wars (Berkeley: UCalifornia P, 2001)