CFP: Crossing Borders; Constructing Canons: Post-Impressionism in Britain, America and Beyond

May  1 and 2, 2020

Courtauld Institute of Art, London

“Post-Impressionism,” a term invented and used by Roger Fry in the exhibition he organized in London in 1910, became a deeply influential critical and historical construct that was (and sometimes is still) used widely in Britain and America.  Critics and historians often uncritically deployed the highly selective, Franco-centric and exclusively male model that emerged from the writing on Fry’s two post-impressionist exhibitions that privileged Cézanne, Gauguin, van Gogh, Matisse and Picasso, who were regarded as a natural group, and Seurat was soon added to the list. The currency, significance and lasting impact of this canon of foundational artists on subsequent generations of art practice, criticism, art historical education and the marketing, collecting and exhibition of modern art in these two countries has been insufficiently examined. We seek to make fresh comparative and discursive analysis of the substantial impact and pervasive reception of this critical strain of modern art in Britain and America and beyond. Topics might include:

a) Exhibition Cultures: early group exhibitions of these canonical artists and their subsequent impact.  These exhibitions may have been held in galleries, museums, or any significant alternative space. Of central interest here as well is the impact of dealers and the art market on the presentation, collection and circulation of work by these artists in the early to mid-twentieth century. Exhibitions beyond the scope of those in Britain and America are welcome; the presentation of these artists in Germany, Scandinavia, or the non-European world are of great interest.

b) Critical Practices: the writing on post-impressionism in Britain and the interconnecting definitions of post-impressionism and modern art that emerged in Americaincluding the critical reception of Fry’s artists, and the cementing of the reputation of Cézanne as the father of modern art, Gauguin as the savage, Van Gogh as the mad artist, Matisse as the child, and Picasso as genius.

c) Global “Post-Impressionist” artistic networks: the transnational legacy and the reception of Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso and Seurat by early to mid-twentieth-century artists in America, Britain and beyond.

d) Museum cultures: the collection and display of Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso and Seurat to include the formation and display of the Courtauld Collection, the Barnes Collection, and the collection formed by Alfred Barr at the Museum of Modern Art. Other museums in Britain, the U.S.A., and globally are of great interest as well.

We see this a ground-breaking conference and we aim to publish the papers.

Proposals of approximately one page should be sent to both Elizabeth Childs, Steinberg Professor, Washington University in Saint Louis, and Anna Gruetzner Robins , Professor Emerita, University of Reading,  Proposals are due by December 31, 2019 ; speakers will be notified of a decision by mid-January.

This conference is supported by the Centre for American Art at The Courtauld Institute of Art.

Elizabeth C. ChildsEtta and Mark Steinberg Professor of Art HistoryDepartment of Art History and ArchaeologyWashington UniversityCampus Box 1189One Brookings DriveSt Louis, MO 63130 office (314)