“Here are fourteen artists who have come to America to live and work. They are a disparate group, but all belong to the rare company of those who have brought originality and authority to the art of their period. Their presence can mean…the beginning of a period during which the American traditions of freedom and generosity may implement a new internationalism in art, centered in this country.”
-James Thrall Soby, excerpt from Artists in Exile Exhibition Catalog
CATALOG FOR THE LANDMARK ARTISTS IN EXILE EXHIBITION, SIGNED BY ALL 14 ARTISTS, INCLUDING ANDRÉ BRETON, MARC CHAGALL, MAX ERNST, AND PIET MONDRIAN.
On March 3, 1942, an historic exhibition of fourteen émigré artists opened at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York City. Pierre Matisse, distinguished modern art dealer, gallery owner, and son of Henri Matisse, exhibited some of the greatest European and American artists of the twentieth century, many for the first time. This special exhibit, appropriately titled Artists In Exile, represented cutting edge European avant-garde art and featured a single work from each artist, created after their arrival in the United States.
We have on offer a rare Artists in Exile exhibition catalog which features a group photo by George Platt Lynes and the signatures of all 14 of the artists in colored inks: Eugene Berman, André Breton, Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, Fernand Leger, Jacques Lipchitz, André Masson, Roberto Matta, Piet Mondrian, Amdeé Ozenfant, Kurt Seligmann, Yves Tanguy, Pavel Tchelitchew, and Ossip Zadkine. There are only a handful of signed copies, each one uniqueㅡthe artists used different colored pens and placed their signatures in different locations.
Artists in Exile highlighted the growing presence of modern artists in New York, who despite their differences in style, generation, and nationality, joined together to showcase their art. Pierre Matisse, for his part, created a welcoming gallery environment. Despite American political rhetoric which celebrated democratic freedom, America in the 1930s and 1940s was economically, socially, politically and culturally isolated and not a welcome refuge for the huddled masses. In contrast, the Pierre Matisse Gallery served as a creative gathering space for these new arrivals who energized the American art world.
Each of these artists worked in modern styles which had been denounced and destroyed by the Nazis and labeled Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) in the 1930s. After the fall of France in 1940 these artists fled Europe, many of them were Jewish. The artists featured in this exhibit had successfully escaped Nazi, fascist and totalitarian regimes, some with the help of the Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC) in Marseille. From 1940-1941 American journalist Varian Fry, of the ERC, worked with art dealers like Pierre Matisse, collectors like Peggy Guggenheim, and museum directors like Alfred H. Barr Jr. (first director of the Museum of Modern Art) to rescue European artists in the greatest danger of Nazi persecution. The ERC helped at least 1,500 refugees escape from France and provided aid to over 2,000 others. Many artists who escaped because of the ERC’s efforts arrived in New York City, the American art capital.
The early 1940s was a turbulent time with so many of Europe’s most prominent modern artists relocating to America. Many of the exiled artists helped to reshape the American art world. Max Ernst, for example, showed Jackson Pollock how to drip paint onto a flat canvas. The Artists in Exile exhibition, therefore, was a celebration of the talent and contributions of these fourteen artists who were introduced to the New York art scene by Pierre Matisse, a leading modern arts enthusiast.
George Platt Lynes, a well-known commercial and fashion photographer of this period, had the difficult task of herding egos for the Artists in Exile exhibition group photograph. While the public viewed this show as a symbol of artistic unity, creating that illusion was a testament to Platt Lynes and to Pierre Matisse’s commitment to showcasing these accomplished artists. Matisse admitted “I get all these people in the studio for the Artists in Exile show and while the photographer (Platt Lynes) fixed his camera, all these people who hated each other were walking around trying not to greet one another. Breton didn’t like Modrian, Leger didn’t like Chagall, Chagall and Ernst didn’t like each other. They all wound up in the picture next to the one they liked the least.” (Weld 271)
Despite their differences in style and their sometimes strained personal relations, this now legendary group show was an opportunity for fourteen artists to introduce themselves to their new home. The signed exhibition catalog for Artists in Exile represents a moment of immense historical importance for these newcomers and for New York City which emerged as the new center of modern art in the 1940s.
Catalog includes complete text by James Thrall Soby and Nicolas Calas, a list of all fourteen pieces of art, and a pull-out group photograph by George Platt Lynes, 1942. 226x152 mm; 9x6 inches. Signed in colored inks on the blank page opposite the iconic photograph by George Platt Lynes by all the participating artists: Berman, Breton, Chagall, Ernst, Leger, Lipchitz, Masson, Matta, Mondrian, Ozenfant, Seligmann, Tanguy, Tchelitchew, and Zadkine.
Note: There are two copies of the catalog included. The signed copy is archivally framed to show the cover, the photograph and the signature page. There is also another complete (unsigned) copy housed in a pocket in the back of the frame.
New York: Pierre Matisse Gallery, 1942. Signed copy framed under UV-protecting museum glass to an overall size of 30x14 inches. Signed copy with tape reinforcement on verso at fold (not visible in frame) and inevitable crease visible at fold in photo. Unsigned copy with only very minor wear.
Allen Ellenzweig. George Platt Lynes: The Daring Eye. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021.
Collin Makamson. “First Fruits of Exile: European Art at Pierre Matisse 1942.” The National World War II Museum, New Orleans. March 16, 2022.
Paul McRandle. “Artists in Exile.” Surrealist NYC, March 2, 2013.
Jacqueline Weld. Peggy: The Wayward Guggenheim. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1986.
Price: $14,000 .