In the period following the First World War, Paris was getting back on its feet after a terrible period of occupation. As a country that has had more than its fair share of foreign invasions, it seems that the people of Paris were jubilant at seeing the fighting end but fairly resigned to the fact that this would probably not be an everlasting peace. Their reaction was to enjoy every minute of the peace whilst it lasted.
Many of the Black American serviceman who had been in Paris during the war stayed on in the city. They had the prospect of segregation at home whereas Paris was always said to be colour blind. The exchange rate between the franc and the American dollar was also good. In return, they brought Jazz to the city. Jazz was a way of enriching the European culture and it was also seen as a way of rebelling. As Duke Ellington said, ‘Jazz is not the sort of man that you would want your daughter to associate with’.
The artists in Paris left the Montmartre of the Impressionist era and centred themselves around a busy crossroads in Montparnasse. They could now sell their paintings without the need for the Academies or the Salons and they were able to make money. Montparnasse was glitzy and exciting. It had Brasseries and American Bars on almost every corner. Most are still there today – La Coupole, Le Dome, La Rotonde. There was just about every nationality in the world here with the intention of having a good time.
La Coupole 1930
The art of Purism opened this era. It was influential but perhaps too straight laced to last for long. Dadaism was closer in appealing to the people of the city, but it was Surrealism that appealed the most to people who lived their lives in a surrealist fashion. Remember, Sur – real was indeed beyond the real.
From Purism…. To Dada…… To Surrealism…….
As war approached yet again, the people of Paris had been right in having a good time while it lasted. In 1940, France fell.
…..and many of the artists and dealers left to begin a new period of art in New York. But that is another story……