Signed by all 14 Artists in Exile
Pierre Matisse, James Thrall Soby and Nicolas Calas [essays]: ARTISTS IN EXILE. New York: Pierre Matisse Gallery, March 1942. Original edition. Slim quarto. Stapled tan printed wrappers. 8 pp. 2 essays. 1 photographic plate [folded as issued]. SIGNED by all 14 artist participants [Eugene Berman, Andre Breton, Marc Chagall, Matta Echaurren, Max Ernst, Fernand Leger, Jacques Lipchitz, Andre Masson, Piet Mondrian, Amedee Ozenfant, Kurt Seligmann, Yves Tanguy, Pavel Tchelitchew, and Ossip Zadkine] in colored inks on the Notes page opposite the legendary group photograph by George Platt Lynes. Small quarter-sized stain to cover and wrappers lightly worn. A very good copy of a document of utmost rarity.
6 x 9 stapled exhibition catalog from the Pierre Matisse Gallery show from March 3 to 28, 1942 in his Gallery in the Fuller Building at 41 East 57th Street where for the first and last time, Mondrian, Leger, Ernst, Chagall, Matta, Masson and other European exiles showed in the same space.
Fourteen artists were represented with one piece each: Matta Echaurren, Ossip Zadkine, Yves Tanguy, Max Ernst, Marc Chagall, Fernand Leger, Andre Breton, Piet Mondrian, Andre Masson, Amedee Ozenfant, Jacques Lipchitz, Pavel Tchelitchev, Kurt Seligmann and Eugene Berman. Each artist has signed their name in a colored ink on the Notes page opposite a group portrait.
The group portrait is the first publication of the photograph by George Platt Lynes, taken in Matisse's living room.
"I stayed in town to hang the exiles' show today, instead of tomorrow. I took this precaution because all the exhibitors are right here in town. You know what they are like. They'd insist on giving me advice, and making sure that their own painting had a very good place. There is Ozenfant, whom I knew in the last war, Leger of course, and Chagall, Lipchitz, Masson, Zadkine, Tanguy, Andre Breton (who has sent in a poem-object), and Mondrian, abstraction's holy man. They number fourteen in all, and I got them together for a group photograph. As most of them didn't speak to one another when they were in France, I was afraid there would be trouble when they were all thrown together. But, as you can see from the enclosed photograph, all went well." -- Pierre Matisse [from a letter to his father, the artist Henri Matisse, dated March 1, 1942]
In PEGGY: THE WAYWARD GUGGENHEIM [Jacqueline Weld, New York: E. P. Dutton, 1986, p. 271], Matisse was more candid: "I got all these people to the studio for the Artists in Exile Show and while the photographer fixed his camera, all these people who hated each other were walking around trying not to greet one another. Breton didn't like Mondrian, Leger didn't like Chagall, Chagall and Ernst didn't like each other. They all wound up in the picture next to the one they liked the least."
The catalog also contains two essays, "Europe" by James Thrall Soby, and "America" by Nicolas Calas, where both authors conflate political and internationalism through direct appeals to American patriotism with the proposition that the safeguarding of European Modernist Art must be considered a stance against Fascism.
"Fortunately, numbers of American artists and interested laymen are aware that a sympathetic relationship with refugee painters and sculptors can have a broadening effect on native tradition, while helping to preserve the cultural impetus of Europe. These Americans reject the isolationist viewpoint which 10 years sought refuge, and an excuse, in regionalism and the American scene movement. They know that art transcends geography. . ." -- James Thrall Soby [from the catalog preface]
Soby indicated two possible directions for American Artists - either the acceptance of a "new internationalism" or a "xenophobic" reaction against the exiled artists ("and wait for such men to go away leaving our art as it was before.") Soby, of course, backed a new internationalism.
"During his 60 years as a dealer, Pierre Matisse exhibited some of the greatest artists of this century in his gallery in the Fuller Building at 41 East 57th Street, including modern masters like Miro, Balthus, Chagall, Dubuffet, Tanguy, Mondrian, Giacometti, de Chirico and his own father, Henri Matisse.
"The dealer's passionate belief in his artists was a lonely undertaking. ''In the beginning my father spent a lot of time in the gallery alone,'' his son Paul said. ''Year after year during the 1930's he just sat there believing in the value of these artists when few other people did. There would be hours and hours before anyone would come in.
''I remember once, when he had a Miro show up, all of a sudden this crowd of people came into the gallery and he said he thought, 'Finally his work has been recognized.' You see, the reaction to Miro had often been, 'My kid could do this.' But it was all a big misunderstanding. The group of people were out for St. Patrick's Day and had thought they recognized something in Miro's name.''
"The relationship between Pierre Matisse and his father has always been a subject of speculation. At the 50th anniversary of the gallery, Pierre Matisse told John Russell of The New York Times: ''My father didn't want me to be a dealer. If I'd been a bad writer or a bad musician he wouldn't have minded. But all artists are wary of all dealers, and he just didn't want me to get mixed up with the trade.''
"But Paul Matisse said the letters actually show how close father and son were. ''They are very personal letters that indicated a very strong family attachment,'' he said. ' 'His father would berate him for not writing enough. He had a tremendous interest in Pierre and knowing what he was doing.'' -- Carol Vogel "A Pack Rat's Art Treasures; For Morgan Library, Pierre Matisse's Archives Are a Bonanza," New York Times, July 08, 1998.
Walter Benjamin in "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" used the word "aura" to refer to the sense of awe and reverence one presumably experienced in the presence of unique works of art. According to Benjamin, this aura inheres not in the object itself but rather in external attributes such as its known line of ownership, its restricted exhibition, its publicized authenticity, or its cultural value. Aura is thus indicative of art's traditional association with primitive, feudal, or bourgeois structures of power and its further association with magic and (religious or secular) ritual. With the advent of art's mechanical reproducibility, and the development of forms of art (such as film) in which there is no actual original, the experience of art could be freed from place and ritual and instead brought under the gaze and control of a mass audience, leading to a shattering of the aura. "For the first time in world history," Benjamin wrote, "mechanical reproduction emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence on ritual."
This copy of ARTISTS IN EXILE has an aura.
The spread with signatures and photograph can be viewed here.
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