Cover image for Negrophilia : avant-garde Paris and black culture in the 1920s
Negrophilia : avant-garde Paris and black culture in the 1920s
Archer Straw, Petrine.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : Thames & Hudson, 2000.
Physical Description:
200 pages : illustrations, portraits ; 25 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DC718.B55 A73 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In the years after the end of the First World War, large numbers of Africans and African Americans emigrated to the cities of Europe in search of work and improved social conditions. Their impact on white European society was immense. In Paris, where the artistic climate was particularly sensitive and experimental, avant garde artists courted black personalities such as Josephine Baker, Henry Crowder, and Langston Hughes for their sense of style, vitality, and "otherness". Leger, Picasso, Brancusi, Man Ray, Giacometti, Sonia Delaunay, and others enthusiastically collected African sculptures and wore tribal jewelry and clothes. More importantly, they adopted black forms in their work, and their style soon influenced a larger audience anxious to be in vogue. A passion for black culture swept through Paris, and by the end of the 1920s, black forms that had provided the initial spark to the modernist vision had become the commercially successful Art Deco style.

Negrophilia, from the French negrophilie -- the contemporary term to describe the craze -- examines this commingling of black and white cultures in jazz-age Paris. Painting, sculpture, photography, popular music, dance, theater, literature, journalism, furniture design, fashion, and advertising -- all are scrutinized to show how black forms were appropriated, adapted, and popularized by white artists. The photographs, writings, and memorabilia of poet Guillaume Apollinaire, art collectors Paul Guillaume and Albert Barnes, shipping heiress and publisher Nancy Cunard, and Surrealists Michel Leiris and Georges Bataille help to recreate the contemporary atmosphere. The book raises questions about the avantgardes motives, and suggestsreasons and meaning for its interest.

Author Notes

Petrine Archer-Straw is a freelance art historian and curator living in Jamaica

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Black culture was very much in vogue in avant-garde Paris in the 1920s as white artists celebrated it as a means of escaping bourgeois values. At the same time, an emphasis on the "primitive" often reduced blacks to racist stereotypes. In this lively, highly accessible study, Archer-Shaw utilizes her background as an art historian and curator to discuss black life and its complex, often disturbing interaction with white European society. The focus on art (including painting, photography, fashion, and sculpture) distinguishes this book from other important works such as Michel Fabre's From Harlem to Paris (LJ 11/15/91), which concentrates on the literary scene, and Tyler Stovall's more general Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light (LJ 12/96). Archer-Straw's book also differs from these works by devoting considerable attention to whites as well as blacks, including shipping heiress Nancy Cunard, art collector Paul Guillaume, and photographer Man Ray. Recommended for all collections with an interest in black culture and/or art. (Notes and bibliography not seen.)DLouis J. Parascandola, Long Island Univ., Brooklyn, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Author's Notep. 7
Introductionp. 8
Chapter 1 Packaging the primitivep. 22
Chapter 2 Fetishism and fashionp. 50
Chapter 3 Negrophiles, photographs and fantasiesp. 80
Chapter 4 Part jazz and the black bottomp. 106
Chapter 5 The darker side of surrealismp. 134
Chapter 6 'Other' lovers in Paris and New Yorkp. 158
Conclusion: Where are we going?p. 178
Epiloguep. 186
Notes and Sourcesp. 190
List of Illustrationsp. 194
Indexp. 198