This bilingual online catalogue presents more than 1,700 works produced by United States artists before 1940 that entered the national collections of France. It includes works of art in all media except prints and photography. These artworks have been drawn from public collections all over France. The title, artist, medium, dimensions, inventory number, history, bibliography, and exhibition history of each piece have been documented. All artworks have been reproduced online when this was feasible under current copyright regulations. All records include photos of the museum or institution where artworks are conserved, as well as links to these institutions’ websites. The catalogue also presents a range of supplementary materials including a French bibliography, a selection of significant works, a timeline, and a range of biographical and historical information.
Trying to understand art in terms of national schools inevitably poses problems of definition. Who counts as an American? In a period characterized by increasing transatlantic mobility, the answer to this question has been complicated. When possible, the creators of this base have tried to err on the side of inclusion, the better to reflect the historically fluid definition of “native” American status. The database includes artists who were born in the United States and artists who were born abroad to American parents, as well as immigrant artists who resided in the United States for significant amounts of time prior to 1940 or who became naturalized citizens before that date. Translations into English are by Gabrielle Gopinath; translations into French are by Marie-Alice Seydoux. When possible, names of people and places have been rendered in their lnguage of origin.
The La Fayette database has been created to promote public awareness of a group of artworks that have never before been examined closely in a national context. More generally, it has been designed to promote an appreciation of pre-1945 American art and to foster popular awareness of the richness and diversity of France’s cultural heritage. Itself the result of a successful international cooperation, the site is intended to make the history of Franco-American artistic rapports better known to the American public, while reminding French audiences of the diversity of their national patrimony.