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Princeton University Art Museum Presents 1913: The Year of Modernism

  • PRINCETON, New Jersey
  • /
  • March 13, 2013

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Amedeo Modigliani, Italian, 1884–1920: Jean Cocteau, 1916–17. Oil on canvas, 100.4 x 81.3 cm. The Henry and Rose Pearlman Collection on long-term loan to the Princeton University Art Museum.
Photo: Bruce M. White

Exhibition examines the dynamic impact that the year 1913 had on fine art, literature and the performing arts

PRINCETON, NJ – The year 1913 was a pivotal moment in the development of modern art and literature in Paris and abroad: Guillaume Apollinaire established his reputation as a poet and crystallized the Cubist movement with his essay The Cubist Painters; Blaise Cendrars and Sonia Delaunay jointly produced the book La Prose du Transsibérien (The Prose of the Transsiberian); and Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring was premiered byDiaghilev’s Ballets Russes. In the United States, the International Exhibition of Modern Art, organized by the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, was held at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue in New York City and then in Chicago and Boston; the show became the single greatest catalyst for introducing avant-garde art to American artists and audiences, prompting no less a figure than former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt to declare, simply, “That’s not art!” One year later, war of an unprecedented brutality would engulf the world, and the exhilaration and dynamism that evolved in the twilight of the Belle Epoque would give way to a climate of pessimism and irrationality.

     On view at the Princeton University Art Museum from March 23 through June 23, 2013, 1913: The Year of Modernism will feature a selection of more than 50 prints, drawings, photographs, rare books and periodicals from the collections of the Princeton University Art Museum and the Princeton University Library. Distinct from recent centennial homages focusing on the renowned 1913 Armory Show, this exhibition illustrates the productive tension between two poles: Paris, as a center and subject of modern art and literature, and the world beyond, as represented by artists throughout Europe and the United States at a time of global transformation.

     “1913 was a watershed and turning point, a moment that marked both a crystallization of the goals of the European avant-garde and, in this country, a revolution in the perception of what modern art was,” notes museum director James Steward. “As a moment in which creative artists crossed borders of all kinds, it is a fitting focus for a museum seeking to be itself a catalyst for creativity.”

     Parisian interiors and street views by Eugène Atget will be juxtaposed with a portrait of Jean Cocteau by Amedeo Modigliani and an early theatrical design by Marc Chagall. Colorful artist’s books such as La Prose du Transsibérien, prints by Fernand Léger and Man Ray, as well as avant-garde periodicals such as DerSturm, Blast and 291 have been assembled to illustrate the dynamic impact that the year 1913 had on fine art, literature and the performing arts on both sides of the Atlantic and for decades to follow.

     The exhibition is the result of a collaborative effort between Efthymia Rentzou, professor in the Department of French and Italian and Calvin Brown, Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Princeton Art Museum. Rentzou and Brown first worked together to bring students into direct contact with original works of art from the Art Museum’s Prints and Drawings collection as a component of a course on the French avant-garde that Rentzou taught last year.

     1913: The Year of Modernism will be the focal point of interdisciplinary programming across the Princeton campus that will concentrate on modernist literature and the arts, including an important international conference entitled 1913: The Year of French Modernism (April 19–20, 2013), organized by Princeton University professors Efthymia Rentzou and André Benhaim from the Department of French and Italian. Florent Masse, director of Princeton’s French theater troupe L’Avant Scène will present Guillaume Apollinaire’s 1917 surrealist play Les Mamelles de Tirésias (the Breasts of Tirésias) on April 19.

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Please direct image requests to Erin Firestone, Manager of Marketing and Public Relations, Princeton University Art Museum, at (609) 258-3767 or

About the Princeton University Art Museum

Founded in 1882, the Princeton University Art Museum is one of the leading university art museums in the country. From the founding gift of a collection of porcelain and pottery, the collections have grown to more than 72,000 works of art that range from ancient to contemporary art and concentrate geographically on the Mediterranean regions, Western Europe, China, the United States, and Latin America.

Committed to advancing Princeton’s teaching and research missions, the Art Museum serves as a gateway to the University for visitors from around the world. The Museum is intimate in scale yet expansive in scope, offering a respite from the rush of daily life, a revitalizing experience of extraordinary works of art, and an opportunity to delve deeply into the study of art and culture.

The Princeton University Art Museum is located at the heart of the Princeton campus, a short walk from the shops and restaurants of Nassau Street. Admission is free. Museum hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. The Museum is closed Mondays and major holidays.


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