École de Paris

(School of Paris; France, circa. 1910)

The “École de Paris" (School of Paris) refers to a community of French and foreign modern artists working in Paris, during the early part of the 20th century, especially between 1925 and the Second World War.  The “Ecole de Paris” designated a historical phrase and time, and not an actual artistic movement.

During the first decade of the 20th century, numerous painters and sculptors migrated to Paris, which had become the international nexus for avant-garde art. The French capital was appealing to artists who sought to liberate themselves from the provincial or academic training of their homelands.  Paris became the center of the world for art and creation, since it had economic stability and was home to some of the great masters including Picasso or Matisse. The art world was thriving and ever-expending.

Foremost among these were Jules Pascin (Julius Pincas), Chaïm Soutine, and other figurative artists (including Edmond Heuzé who was an influential member of this group).  Heuzé had an atelier of artists that he painted with and influenced, and in his later years, he taught art at the Ecole de Beaux Arts.  Marcelle Cahen-Bergerol was a member of this atelier.

During this time period, artists gathered in artist studios (including the studio of “Edmond Heuzé” as well as the free academies of Montparnasse and Vavin, and also at the cafés; including “Le Dôme,” “La Rotonde”,  and “Le Select.”  These artists met with and were influenced by the avant-garde pre-war philosophers and writers.  Some became famous, some remained in the shadows, some were recognized in the early days, others waited, while yet others were swept away by the war atrocities without a chance at success.

Following World War I, some Surrealist painters, including Max Ernst, were also counted among the school. Bringing with them their variegated customs, these artists converged upon the Montmartre and Montparnasse districts to absorb and contribute to the latest artistic developments, often fusing new elements with aspects of their respective traditions in their works. Not surprisingly, considering their various backgrounds, these artists did not adhere to one fixed style typical of a “school”; however, they were united in defiance against academicism.

Despite diverse stylistic approaches, many relied upon the human figure and immediate social conditions as subjects, dealing with themes such as poverty, moral dissolution, personal alienation, and the spectacle of the changing city itself.  The end of World War II brought the advent of Abstract Expressionism and the New York School, and these primarily figurative painters were displaced from the center of the avant-garde. Other painters that were associated with the School of Paris include Marc Chagall, Tsuguharu (Léonard) Foujita, and Amedeo Modigliani.