Cubism and the Trompe L’Oeil with Beth Gersh-Nesic

Wednesday, May 31, 1:00pm
Free for AF Members, Online
Federation of Alliances Françaises USA
In English


The Metropolitan Museum’s groundbreaking exhibition Cubism and the Trompe L’Oeil Tradition, on view from October 20, 2022 to January 22, 2023, was a revelation! 

This extraordinary curatorial effort explains one of the least understood and most significant aspects of the Cubist movement, especially its collage. In essence, we learn that one of the oldest ways of judging artistic merit, the ability to copy nature to the degree that it fool’s the eye (in French, tromper –  to deceive; l’oeil – the eye), played a significant role in the Cubist works by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris. Since most of us look upon Cubism as the threshold to abstraction, the opposite of verisimilitude, the news that these Cubists assiduously studied and parodied trompe l’oeil may come as a shock.

In the hands of the two brilliant art historians and curators Emily Braun, Distinguished Professor of Art History, CUNY Graduate Center and Hunter College, and Elizabeth Cowling, Professor Emerita, Edinburgh University, with the previous collaboration of the former curator of the Leonard A. Lauder Collection, Rebecca Rabinow, currently the director of The Menil Collection in Houston, Texas, we learn that Picasso, Braque and Gris (art dealer Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler’s principal stable of artists) invented this peculiar visual language larded with visual jokes, puns, and codes to delight each other as it stoked their competitive natures.

Art historian and Director of the New York Arts Exchange Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, PhD, will briefly summarize our typical approaches to the Cubist movement and then offer a slide-lecture tour of the exhibition Cubism and the Trompe L’Oeil Tradition, focusing on individual works of art and installations in the galleries that help us understand the relationship between Cubism and trompe l’oeil still life paintings and decoration.  Dr. Gersh-Nesic specializes in the history of Cubism and the Cubist critics, most notably the poet/critic André Salmon who published the first history of Cubism in his book La Jeune Peinture française (1912). This exhibition illustrates his chapter on collage in La Jeune Sculpture française (written in 1914 and published in 1919, after World War I).  Dr. Gersh-Nesic translated both books, published together in André Salmon on French Modern Ar(Cambridge University Press, 2005).  A revised translation of La Jeune Peinture française is now available in Pablo Picasso, André Salmon and “Young French Painting” (Za Mir Press, 2022), which  features an introduction by renowned Salmon expert Dr. Jacqueline Gojard,  Professor Emeritus of Literature, University of Paris III (Sorbonne Nouvelle), and her numerous additions to Dr. Gersh-Nesic’s original annotations.  Their previous collaboration focusses on the relationship between Picasso and Salmon: Pablo Picasso and André Salmon: The Painter, the Poet, and the Portraits (Za Mir Press, 2019).

Promo image:
Juan Gris, Spanish, Madrid 1887–1927 Boulogne-sur-Seine
Still Life with a Guitar, 1913
Oil on canvas 26 × 39 1/2 in. (66 × 100.3 cm)
Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection, 1998
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

This event will be in English and is on Zoom and free for all Alliance Française members, AATF members, and invited guests of the presenter or publicist. Non-members or persons who have no AF chapter nearby can purchase tickets ($10).

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