Jewish Expressionists in France, 1900–1940

Authored by: Richard D. Sonn

The Routledge Companion to Expressionism in a Transnational Context

Print publication date:  August  2018
Online publication date:  August  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138712553
eBook ISBN: 9781315200088
Adobe ISBN:


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There was nothing new about artists coming to Paris from all corners of the globe; they had been doing so since the eighteenth century when France displaced Italy as the center of civilized life and the focal point of artistic innovation. This trend accelerated during the Third French Republic (1870–1940) as French artists challenged the authority of the official art salons as sanctioned by the École des Beaux Arts. Beginning with impressionism in the 1870s, artistic movements proliferated, and the excitement brought increasing numbers of foreign art students to Paris. The epoch of modernism coincided not only with the Third Republic but also with the movement of Jews out of Tsarist Russia. Pogroms following the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881 targeted the millions of Jews confined to the Pale of Settlement—the area of Lithuania, Poland, Byelorussia, and Ukraine incorporated into Russia in the eighteenth century under Catherine II. Over two million Jews left Russia between 1881 and 1914, most headed for the New World. Some Jewish immigrants found their way to France, and some enrolled in the art academies that catered to these young would-be artists. Most Jewish immigrants arriving in Paris settled on the Right Bank, in the Marais district that became known as the Pletzl of Paris. The artists, however, did not join their coreligionists in the Marais or in Belleville, but instead gravitated to the new bohemia of Montparnasse. By the 1920s, hundreds of Jewish painters and sculptors had studios near the boulevard Montparnasse and its famous cafes, La Rotonde, Le Dôme, and La Coupole. 1

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