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Primitivism and Twentieth-Century Art

A Documentary History

Jack Flam (Editor), Miriam Deutch (Editor)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 508 pages
ISBN: 9780520215030
March 2003
$44.95, £38.00
This book is the first to bring together texts documenting the encounter between Western artists and writers and what has historically been called primitive art—the traditional, indigenous arts of Africa, Oceania, and North America. Beginning with the "discovery" of that art by European artists and writers early in the twentieth century, this anthology charts the evolving pictorial responses, artistic aspirations, aesthetic theories, and cultural debates that have developed from this encounter. Written by artists, literary figures, collectors, museum curators, and cultural critics, these essays—most of them never before translated or reprinted—show the dazzling range of issues elicited by the confrontation with primitive arts and cultures.

Primitivism designates not a specific movement or group of artists, but a persuasive notion crucial to twentieth-century art and modern thinking generally. Because the encounter between the West and primitive art took place at the height of Western colonialism, a number of racial and political issues come into play, either overtly or implicitly, in writings about both the art and the people who produced it. The contributions to this volume speak to each other in provocative ways, giving a unique overview of those issues.

Jack Flam provides an introduction to the book and brief outlines for each of its four sections. Also included are a coda of quotations from artists and critics from throughout the century; a chronology of events, exhibitions, and publications; an extensive bibliography; and over forty illustrations.
List of Illustrations
Introduction by Jack Flam

PART 1. DISCOVERY, 1905–18
Maurice de Vlaminck
Discovery of African Art, 1906

André Derain
Early Encounter with African Art, 1906

Henri Matisse
First Encounter with African Art, 1906

Pablo Picasso
Discovery of African Art, 1906–7

Gertrude Stein
Matisse and Picasso and African Art, 1906–7

Guillaume Apollinaire
On Museums, 1909

Gelett Burgess
The Wild Men of Paris, 1910

Roger Fry
The Art of the Bushmen, 1910

Franz Marc
Letter to Auguste Macke, 1911

August Macke
Masks, 1912

Emil Nolde
The Artistic Expressions of Primitive Peoples, 1912

Elie Faure
The Tropics, 1912

André Warnod
Decorative Arts and Artistic Curiosities, 1912

Vladimir Markov
Negro Art, 1913

Karl Scheffler
Picasso and African Sculpture Exhibition, Berlin, 1913

Emil Waldmann
Picasso and African Sculpture Exhibition, Dresden, 1914

Marius de Zayas
Statuary in Wood by African Savages: The Root of Modern Art, 1914

Charles H. Caffin
Root of Art in Negro Carvings, 1914

Kazimir Malevich
The Art of the Savage and Its Principles, 1915

Carl Einstein
African Sculpture, 1915

Marius de Zayas
African Negro Art and Modern Art, 1916

Hermann Bahr
Expressionism, 1916

Edgar L. Hewett
America’s Archaelogical Heritage, 1916

Guillaume Apollinaire
Concerning the Art of the Blacks, 1917

Tristan Tzara
Note 6 on African Art, 1917

Josef Capek
Negro Sculpture, 1918

T. S. Eliot
War-Paint and Feathers, 1919

Henri Clouzot and André Level
Savage Art, 1919

Paul Guillaume
A New Aesthetic, 1919

Florent Fels (editor)
Opinions on Negro Art, 1920

André Salmon
Negro Art, 1920

Roger Fry
Negro Sculpture at the Chelsea Book Club, 1920

Félix Fénéon (editor)
Will Arts from Remote Places Be Admitted into the Louvre? 1920

Walter Pach
The Art of the American Indian, 1920

Marsden Hartley
Red Man Ceremonials, 1920

Carlo Anti
The Sculpture of the African Negroes, 1923

Florent Fels
Negro Art at the Pavillon de Marsan, 1923

Alain Locke
Note on African Art, 1924

Henri Clouzot and André Level
The Lesson of an Exhibition, 1925

Alain Locke
Legacy of the Ancestral Arts, 1925

Georges Salles
Reflections on Negro Art, 1927

Christian Zervos
Oceanic Works of Art and Today’s Problems, 1929

Paul Éluard
Savage Art, 1929

Waldemar George
The Twilight of the Idols, 1930

G. H. Luquet
Primitive Art, 1930

Georges Bataille
Primitive Art, 1930

John Sloan and Oliver LaFarge
Introduction to American Indian Art, 1931

Eckart von Sydow
The Meaning of Primitive Art, 1932

Romare Bearden
The Negro Artist and Modern Art, 1934

James Johnson Sweeney
The Art of Negro Africa, 1935

Alain Locke
African Art, 1935

John D. Graham
Primitive Art and Picasso, 1937

James A. Porter
The Negro Artist and Racial Bias, 1937

Frederic H. Douglas and René d’Harnoncourt
Indian Art of the United States, 1941

Henry Moore
Primitive Art, 1941

Adolph Gottlieb and Mark Rothko
The Portrait and the Modern Artist, 1943

Ralph Linton and Paul S. Wingert
Arts of the South Seas, 1946

Barnett Newman
Art of the South Seas, 1946

Barnett Newman
Foreword, Northwest Coast Indian Painting, 1946

D. H. Kahnweiler
Negro Art and Cubism, 1948

Jean Dubuffet
Anticultural Positions, 1951

Jean Laude
French Painting and Negro Art, 1968

William Rubin
Modernist Primitivism, 1984

Thomas McEvilley
Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief, 1984

James Clifford
Histories of the Tribal and the Modern, 1985

Kirk Varnedoe
On the Claims and Critics of the "Primitivism" Show, 1985

Hal Foster
The "Primitive" Unconscious of Modern Art, 1985

Thomas McEvilley
The Global Issue, 1990

Lucy Lippard
Naming, 1990

Sieglinde Lemke
Primitivist Modernism, 1998

Coda: Quotations from Artists and Writers
Chronology of Events, Exhibitions, and Publications
Jack Flam is Distinguished Professor of Art History at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the author of numerous books and articles on modern art and on African art. His recent works include Western Artists/African Art (1994), Matisse on Art (California, 1995), and Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings (California, 1996). Miriam Deutch is Associate Professor specializing in Art History at the Brooklyn College Library and author of Images from Columbia's Past 1865-1945 (1982).
Focusing on the Western artistic engagement with ‘traditional, indigenous arts of Africa, Oceania, and North America,’ the sources here offer a broad range of opinions from artists and critics, archaeologists and psychologists.... they chart the development of primitivism from its function as a formal tool of modernist painters and a plaything of 1920s jazz club socialites to its status as a scholarly conceit of mid-centry anthropologists.”—Times Literary Supplement (TLS)
"This is a much needed, important collection-a goldmine of sources for scholars and students. The texts articulate the key Primitivist aesthetic discourses of the period, offering crucial insight into the complex and always changing nexus between culture, politics, and representation. Because of the breadth of the materials covered and the controversies they raise, this anthology is one of the all too rare volumes that not only will provide reference materials for years to come but also will feature centrally in classroom discussions."—Suzanne Preston Blier, author of African Vodun: Art, Psychology, and Power

"For almost a century art historians have fretted about the notion of primitivism in the arts. This comprehensive-in both senses of the word-anthology is a peerless source of the history of responses to works categorized as 'primitive.' In its range, the book touches upon all the troubling questions-formal, anthropological, political, historical-that have bedeviled the study of the arts of Oceania, Africa, and North and South America, and provides the grounds, at last, for intelligent pursuit of keener distinctions. I regard this book as a superb contribution to the study of Modern art; in fact, indispensable."—Dore Ashton, author of Noguchi East and West

"An extraordinarily useful and complete collection of primary documents, many translated for the first time into English, and almost all unlikely to be encountered elsewhere without serious effort. Its five sections, each with a lively and scholarly introduction, reveal the diverse views of artists and writers on primitive art from Matisse, Picasso, and Fry to many far less known and sometimes surprising figures. The book also uncovers the politics and aesthetics of the major museum exhibitions that gained acceptance for art that had been both reviled and mythologized. Recent texts included are all germane. This book will be invaluable for any college course on the topic."—Shelly Errington, author of The Death of Authentic Primitive Art and Other Tales of Progress

"An exceptionally valuable anthology of seventy documents--most heretofore unavailable in English--on the ongoing controversies surrounding Primitivism and Modern art. Insightfully chosen and annotated, the collection is brilliantly introduced by Jack Flam's essay on the historical progression, contexts, and cultural complexities of more than one hundred years' ideas about Primitivism. Rich, timely, illuminating."—Herbert M. Cole, author of Icons: Ideals and Power in the Art of Africa

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