Painting American by Annie Cohen-Solal
The Rise of American Artists, Paris 1867-New York 1948

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Shortly after the Civil War, a resurgent America strode brashly onto the hallowed ground of the Paris salon to present its most distinguished painters in the Exposition Universelle of 1867. Their offereings included majestic Western waterfalls, magnificent portraits, sprawling landscapes--the cream of a nation ready to assert itself culturally as it had begun to do so economically. The Americans sat back to bask in anticipated applause.

But their confidence would be shattered when the luminaries of the French Academy condemned the spectacle as being unworthy of the great nation that had produced it. The rebuke provoked widespread soulsearching in America: Why was the land of Melville and Poe unable to produce paintings of comparable power? How was it to claim a place among nations producing art of real consequence?

In this magnificent historical panorama, Annie Cohen-Solal shows how American pragmatism furnished the solution: Learn from the best. The French were then the undisputed masters of painting, and so to France the Americans went in hordes, apprenticing themselves in the studios of reknowned masters--Gérôme, Cabanel, and others--or founding colonies such as the legendary one at Pont-Aven. From the seeds of their individual efforts would grow an extraordinary crop, one that included not only the great--Whistler, Cassatt, Sargent--but a legion of artists of all ranks who collectively pushed forward a bold new American enterprise. In two generations, Paris would be eclipsed, and the greatest French artists would begin coming to New York to be at the new center of everything.

Meticulously researched and presented as a captivating story, this book tells the saga of the rise of American artists as we have never had it before: a surging transatlatic ebb and flow of cultural energies, driven by innumberable fascinating individuals--painters, collectors, critics, titans of industry--some of them now famous, others forgotten. Informed throughout by the author's unique perspective as a scholar, a writer, and a cultural diplomat, Painting American offers an utterly new understanding of one of the greatest changes in cultural history.

About Annie Cohen-Solal

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Annie Cohen-Solal was born in Algeria and received a Ph.D. in French literature from the Sorbonne. She has taught at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, at the Universities of Berlin, Jerusalem, Paris XIII, Caen and is currently Visiting Arts Professor at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, where she teaches seminars on Cultural Policy and on the Globalization of the Visual Arts. She first came to New York in 1989 as the Cultural Counselor to the French Embassy in the United States, after her acclaimed Sartre biography, Sartre: A Life, had become an international best seller, translated into sixteen languages. Her encounter with Leo Castelli prompted a shift of her interest to the art world. Cohen-Solal was awarded the Prix Bernier of the Académie des Beaux Arts for the French edition of Painting American in 2001 and won the Art Curial Prize for the best contemporary art book for the French edition of Leo Castelli and His Circle in 2010. She lives in New York, Paris and Cortona.
Published October 16, 2001 by Knopf. 448 pages
Genres: History, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction

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Thanks to entrepreneurs and artists such as Leo Stein, Paul Durand-Ruel, and other “ambassadors who carried the spirit of Modernism overseas,” American and French audiences alike had their horizons broadened, to the benefit of all concerned, even if the French still sniffed at the Americans among...

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Publishers Weekly

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French intellectual Cohen-Solal made a splash with a life of Jean-Paul Sartre over a dozen years ago, followed by high-profile cultural diplomat jobs, including a stint as cultural counselor at the French Embassy in the U.S. from 1989 to 1993.

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Star Tribune

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With years of experience as an exhibition coordinator for the French Embassy in the United States, she seems to share the opinion she quotes from Ashcan School painter William Glackens: "Everything worthwhile in our art is due to the influence of French art."

Nov 10 2001 | Read Full Review of Painting American: The Rise o...

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