The History of French Art – Part 4

The final part of our history of French art brings us into the 20th Century, the radical Modern Art era. With the adventurous work of Derain and Matisse in the Fauvism period it seemed obvious that they laid the path for even more outrageous art.


The term Modern Art can be home  for many movements during this time, and in France a large cornerstone for this movement of the avant-garde was Cubism.

Cubism was a geometric version of art, that changed from the traditional into the conceptual. The Modern Art era was driven by artists such as Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso and they paved the way for a plethora of experimental genres that followed.

Some artists such as Marcel Duchamp had their feet in two or three camps, Duchamp created in Dadaism as well as Cubism and even Surrealism.

Surrealism was the extremity of Modern Art, and a great number of artists created works that were purely mind-blowing, at the forefront of this was Yves Tanguy.

Famous names in art during the modern era were Jean Dubuffet who was famous for Outsider Art, and Louise Bourgeois.

After WWII the art from America was more about a response to French Abstract Expressionism, and it was called Art Informal, which was driven by two French artists, Georges Mathieu and Pierre Soulages.

When the 1960’s arrived, it was met by Nouveau Realisme which was a sort of a combination of Neo-Dada and American Pop art. Artists championing this movement were Martial Raysse, Niki de Saint-Phalle and Yves Klein.


Contemporary art in France in part has its roots in the past, where different styles and eras of French art have evolved. The topics that are popular are the nature of existence and a keen interest of the self.

During the mid-19th Century and up to the present day notable French artists include Christian Boltanski, Sophie Calle who creates deeply intimate art, and Pierre Huyghe who has embraced multimedia as an art form. Huyghe had a recent installation that included a live bee colony.

France has always been a center for gastronomy, culture and fashion and at the forefront of art for hundreds of years. Paris continues to this very day to be one of the world’s greatest art capitals and a hotbed for the new and avant-garde.

French artists have always be adaptable and reasonable to change, they have worked in many styles and mediums, and as such they have always pushed boundaries and been at the cutting edge of world art.

Today the country has over ten thousand museums, and it remains to offer a truly spectacular art experience for any tourist that travels to Paris and France’s other regional cultural centers.

Places such as the Centre Pompidou, Musee du Lourve, Musee d’Orsay and Musee d’Art Moderne house not only the best in French art, but also other famous artists from around the world.

France has not rested on its laurels, new independent and nonprofit galleries and art centers have been created such as La Maison Rouge, Modus Art Gallery, Galerie Xippas and La Marechalerie and they continue to exhibit contemporary art from today’s French artists.