Collection 1880s–1940s


The New Spirit in Paris



Camille Bombois. Before Entering the Ring. 1930–35. Oil on canvas, 23 5/8 × 28 3/4" (60 × 73 cm). Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fund
  • MoMA, Floor 5, 513 The David Geffen Wing

“Experimental aesthetics, painting, sculpture, architecture, literature, music, engineering, theater, the music hall, cinema, circus, sports, costume, books, furniture, the aesthetics of modern life.” This wide-ranging list, which appeared on the cover of the inaugural issue of the journal L’Esprit nouveau, in 1920, summarizes the energetic, boundary-crossing spirit of Paris between the two world wars.

In response to the violent ruptures of World War I, artists and designers working in the French capital tried to simultaneously reestablish tradition and construct a dynamic new world. The architect Le Corbusier, for instance, praised both the classicism of the Parthenon and the modernity of the automobile, while the painter Fernand Léger situated lounging female nudes, a time-honored subject, in a sleekly contemporary interior. Exchanges among artists from across Central and Eastern Europe, South America, and elsewhere—and the circulation of art from France’s colonies in Africa—fueled new artistic attitudes as well.

Organized by Samantha Friedman, Associate Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints, with Amanda Forment, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design, Paul Galloway, Collection Specialist, Department of Architecture and Design, and Lydia Mullin, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Painting and Sculpture.

36 works online


Installation images

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