From May 12th through May 17th 2015, Cassera Arts Premiers in collaboration with Galerie Mourlot will present an exciting exhibition exploring the relationship between Primitive Art and Modern art. The exhibition will feature museum quality traditional arts of Africa, Oceania & the Americas from the gallery of David Cassera juxtaposed with rare lithographs by Picasso, Matisse, Miró, Braque and more from the famous Mourlot Collection.
At the beginning of the 20th century, artists such as Fernand Léger,
Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, and Pablo Picasso, just to name a few, began
to explore the art form of lithography. Their interest came through the
encouragement of the Atelier Mourlot, a Parisian printshop founded in 1852 by the Mourlot family on rue Saint-Mar in East Paris.
The theme of the exhibiton 'Primitivism' (as referred to by art
historians) is a Western art movement that borrows visual forms from
non-Western or prehistoric peoples. Borrowings from primitive art has
been important to the development of modern art.
During the early 20th century, the European cultural elite were
discovering the traditional arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas.
Artists such as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso were intrigued and
inspired by the stark power and simplicity of styles of those cultures.
Around 1906, Picasso, Matisse, André Derain and other artists in
Paris had acquired an interest in 'tribal art', mainly African and
Oceanic sculpture and masks, in part because of the compelling works of
Paul Gauguin that had suddenly achieved center stage in the avant-garde
circles of Paris.
It was determined that Kota reliquary figures from Gabon, which were
brought to the Musee de l’Homme in the 1880’s could have been a source
of Picasso’s inspiration. An important event recorded by the American
expat writer Gertrude Stein in the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
(1913), mentions how Matisse purchased a small African sculpture known
as a Vili figure (Democratic Republic of Congo), at a curio shop on his
way to visit her home in 1907. Matisse showed the figure to Picasso who
admitted that it later lead to various visits to the African collections
at the Trocadéro beginning in June 1907. The African sculptures, he
said, had helped him to understand his purpose as a painter, which was
not to entertain with decorative images, but to mediate between
perceived reality and the creativity of the human mind—to be freed, or
“exorcised,” from fear of the unknown by giving form to it. As a result
of his introduction to primitive art, Picasso began thinking, taking a
more sculptural approach to his painting, resulting in strong,
In 1907, when Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d’Avignon which
features five nude woman, two of them wearing what obviously appear to
be African style masks. Picasso also completed a portrait of Gertrude
Stein, repainting the face many times ultimately ending his rose period
resulting in a hard, masklike style reminiscent of the archaic
sculptures from his Iberian homeland. Matisse who also frequented the
African display at the Trocadéro museum visited North Africa in 1906.
When he returned, he painted two versions of The Young Sailor in which
one version featured naturalistically contoured facial features, while
the second was clearly a more rigid abstract appearance similar to that
of a mask. Some consider these events the birth of Cubism and a defining
role in the course of modern art throughout the 20th century, thus
questioning the very basis of European modernism and its existence
without African and Oceanic influences. During the Cubist period,
Picasso continued to incorporate mask-faced figures with fragmented
geometric shapes, featured in works such as Bust of a Man 1908, Woman’s
Head 1909, and the Standing Female Nude, 1910 which is arguably the
greatest cubist drawing ever created. Another artist, a young Italian at
the School of Paris named Amedeo Modigliani was introduced to African
sculpture by his friend and fellow artist Brancusi. Modigliani was
utterly fascinated with the simplicity of African masks and art, which
emanates from his portraits. As a sculptor, he left many pieces
unfinished, but from this time on, his paintings were far more
influenced by what he had learnt through his attempts at sculpture. He
mainly adapted stylistic influences from Baule culture in his artworks
and often sketched the elongated heart shaped faces of Baule masks and
Don't miss this intimate opportunity to discover how the traditional
arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas inspired the great European
modern artists like Picasso, Matisse and Miró from May 12th - 17th 2015
during the 6th Annual New York Tribal Art Week.
Galerie Mourlot, 16 East 79th Street between Fifth and Madison. Cocktail Reception: Thursday, May 14th from 5pm - 8pm CLICK HERE TO RSVP.
Gallery Hours: Tuesday, May 12th – Saturday, May 16th from 12 - 7pm & Sunday, May 17th from 12 - 5pm. Cassera Arts Premiers