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Americans in Paris: Man Ray, Gerald Murphy, Stuart Davis, Alexander Calder (1921-1931) exhibition records

 Collection
Identifier: IR-CUR-024

Scope and Contents

As set forth by curator Beth Turner in the exhibition's catalogue, "the unique themes and correspondences and experiences in the lives of four American artists traveling abroad for the first time in the twenties and experiencing the exhilarating climate of Americanisme in Paris ultimately became the basis for the [Americans in Paris] show." The American artists' reception in Paris was a reflection of the changing relationship between the two nations. The United States became the dominant foreign influence in France as American capital and industrial methods rebuilt the country after the First World War, and American mass culture invaded Parisians‟ daily life. Machinery, jazz, movies, and brand names came to define Americans in Paris.

To paraphrase Dr. Turner's catalog essay, Paris provided some brief but defining moments of artistic revelation for these artists. Man Ray's ambition was to move out of the shadow of Matisse and Picasso and into his own light. He freed himself from the "sticky medium of paint" and began to work directly with light itself in his rayographs, which he called "the climax of things I have been searching for the last ten years." He also saw film as the best medium for images created through movement and change, leading to his collaboration with Leger on Ballet mecanique and other films which he called cinepoems.

Gerald Murphy, a businessman, discovered modern painting while window-shopping in Paris. After six months of art lessons, Murphy followed the French prescription for the "new spirit" in modern painting, while developing a prime concern with the selection, combination and analysis of objects – an ability he credited Fernand Leger with teaching him. Once he established his "Villa America" in Antibes, nature became a prime inspiration.

Stuart Davis had already established his reputation as a leading proponent of modern America upon departing for Paris. What he sought was the time and space to work, a freedom synonymous with Paris for most artists at the time. Once there, Davis gained an understanding of the American vantage point in Paris. He walked the streets of Paris, capturing an American vitality that stood in contrast to the Old World.

Calder made three trips to Paris in as many years, because "Paris seemed the place to go." But he described his visit to Mondrian's studio as the "shock that started things," which freed him to look at space and motion abstractly. The visit provoked Calder's first serious consideration of nonobjective art, reinforcing his desire to create works with movement.

This exhibition opened at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. on April 27, 1996 and continued until August 18, 1996.

The primary creator of the catalogue and exhibition planning records in this collection was Beth Turner.

The collection consists of the research, catalogue, exhibition, and video planning files of the curator. These records consist of research materials assembled, as well as catalogue, exhibition, and video planning and execution documents such as legal and financial records, correspondence, loan requests and responses, schedules, installation design, and checklists.

Dates

  • 1989 - 1997
  • Usage: The material in this collection were used in preparation for the 1996 exhibition.

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

This collection includes restricted material.

Conditions Governing Use

Care should be taken in handling Val E. Lewton's folded installation drawings in Series 3, Box 3, Folder 5.

Biographical / Historical

Between 1921 and 1931, the four American artists featured in this exhibition, Man Ray, Gerald Murphy, Stuart Davis and Alexander Calder, profited by the popularity in Paris of Americanisme, France's embrace of American modernism in industry, technology and popular culture. The Americans, in turn, benefited from Paris' bounty of exhibition and study spaces, and almost immediately began experimenting with new media and redefining themselves as artists. This exhibition explores these artists' experience of Paris in the 1920s and the reaction of Parisian critics and journalists who reviewed their work.

Extent

2.5 Linear Feet (6 full legal boxes)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

Americans in Paris: : Man Ray, Gerald Murphy, Stuart Davis, Alexander Calder (1921 – 1931)exhibition records contain materials created and collected by the Curatorial Department, The Phillips Collection, during the course of organizing the exhibition. Included are research,catalogue, exhibition and video planning and design files.

Arrangement

The collection is organized as four series: Series 1: Research Series 2: Catalogue Planning and Production Series 3: Exhibition Planning Series 4: Video Planning and Production

The research material is in one series. Folders are arranged alphabetically. Documents within folders are arranged chronologically with the oldest documents in front to the most recent in the back of each folder. The Research Series is comprised of part of one document box.

The catalogue material is divided into two sub-series: "General Planning" and "Rights and Permissions" files. Folders are arranged alphabetically in both sub-series. Documents within folders are arranged chronologically with the oldest document in front to the most recent in the back of each folder. The Catalogue Planning and Production Series is comprised of one document box plus part of another.

The exhibition material is divided into two sub-series; "General Planning" and "Lender" files. Folders are arranged alphabetically in both sub-series. The Lender sub-series is arranged with general files first, followed by individual lender files. Documents within folders are arranged chronologically with the oldest document in front to the most recent in the back of each folder. The Exhibition Planning Series is comprised of two document boxes.

The video material is in one series. Folders are arranged alphabetically. Documents within folders are arranged chronologically with the oldest documents in front to the most recent in the back of each folder; with the exception of Folder 7 labeled "Permissions", which is arranged alphabetically by permission grantor. The Video Planning and Production Series is comprised of one document box, plus physical videos in one banker's box.

Custodial History

This collection is owned by The Phillips Collection, and was accessioned from the curators' offices.

Related Materials

Man Ray Trust
516-938-7373
manraytrust@manraytrust.com

Calder Foundation
207 West 25th Street, Fl. 12
New York, NY 10001
212 334 2424
contact@calder.org





Processing Information

After an initial survey of the collection, some duplicate materials were identified and a number of documents were identified as of no future reference value for the collection. In further discussions among the librarian, the curator, and the processor, approval was given to weed duplicate documents (retaining those with handwritten notes), photocopy documentation, and some transparencies. Duplicates and/or drafts of contracts were weeded. Boxes and Folders containing restricted materials were marked with a red dot (see note above regarding "Restrictions"). Window dub and audio only tapes were discarded; complete videos were retained for future conversion to dvd or other format.

The original alphabetical arrangement of the research, catalogue, exhibition, and video planning files was maintained. Folder headings were maintained, but were re-written in some cases for greater clarity and accuracy. Metal paperclips were removed and replaced with plastic clips. Adhesive Post-it® notes were copied if necessary, otherwise removed. All documents were re-foldered in acid-free folders.

NOTE: Lender files are restricted and have been omitted from this version of the Finding Aid.

Title
Americans in Paris: Man Ray, Gerald Murphy, Stuart Davis, Alexander Calder (1921-1931) exhibition records, 1989-1997
Subtitle
The Phillips Collection Library and Archives 1600 21st Street NW Washington D.C. 20009
Author
Valerie Vanden Bossche, Volunteer, supervised by Karen Schneider, Librarian
Date
May-July, 2010
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the The Phillips Collection Archives Repository

Contact:
1600 21st St. NW
Washington DC 20009 United States