"Charlie Chaplin in the eye of the avant-garde" exhibition at the Art Museum of Nantes

From October 18, 2019 to February 3, 2020, Charlie Chaplin is in the spotlight at the Art Museum of Nantes with an exhibition offering a reinterpretation of the art of the first half of the 20th century. The cinematographic star's oeuvre of silent cinema is the central theme.

The first international star in the history of cinema, Charlie Chaplin has never ceased to fascinate from the beginning of his career. Showing an increased awareness of his time, the filmmaker has affirmed the aesthetic and thematic concerns deeply shared by the avant-gardes since 1914, when the character of the Tramp (External link) was born.

Charlie Chaplin and the artists who inspired him

Through about 150 objects (paintings, photographs, drawings, sculptures, documents and, of course, movie clips), the exhibition offers a rediscovery of the works of František Kupka, Marc Chagall, Fernand Léger, Man Ray, Meret Oppenheim, John Heartfield, Claude Cahun, highlighting the close relationship between their work and that of Chaplin, something that has never been done.

At the crossroads of the arts, the exhibition offers an unprecedented immersion in the visual world of the first half of the 20th century, highlighting how avant-garde artists are as much explorers and mindful witnesses of their own time as passionate spectators of Chaplin's cinema.

Charlie Chaplin as inspiration

Thanks to the unprecedented broadcasting possibilities offered by the reproducibility of cinema, artists and critics of the whole world simultaneously discover, for the first time, the work of a man seizing this once-new medium as a means of expression.
Throughout Europe and the United States, from Dada to Constructivism, a universal fascination shakes up the avant-garde artists who welcome Chaplin's work as one of their own, resonating with their creations.

Marc Chagall, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and the others

Fernand Léger discovered the Tramp in 1916, and placed it in his work Le Ballet Mécanique (External link) . He will share this artist's fascination of a new genre with Jacques Vaché, André Breton, Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, who will mention him in their correspondence.
In 1918, Louis Aragon celebrated him in his poems published in the Nord-Sud and Le Film magazines. In 1919, Tristan Tzara announced his adherence to the Dada movement. In 1922, surrealists devoted an edition of Disque vert (a surrealist magazine that was very popular at the time) to him. Marc Chagall states that Chaplin is the artist he feels closest to in the century.

Based on this observation, the exhibition shows the porous nature between the work of Charlie Chaplin and that of his contemporaries through four themes: "The being machine", "The poetics of the world", "The show within the show", and "The absurdity of the story."

Chaplin at the Philharmonic Society and the Museum of Fine Arts of Rouen

The scenography, designed by Martin Michel and his team, underlines this bias and offers a space for mediation and relaxation called L’usine à rêves ("The Dream Factory"). For those curious about the exhibition, a richly illustrated catalog will bring together essays both by specialists in the work of Charlie Chaplin and researchers using this innovative theme to work on the border of history of art and cultural history.
The fall of 2019 will see the opening of two other events offering a reinterpretation of the artist's work: Charlie Chaplin, L’homme orchestre at the Philharmonic Society of Paris, and Arts et Cinéma: les liaisons heureuses at the Museum of Fine Arts of Rouen in Normandy.


Museum of Arts, 10 rue Georges-Clemenceau – 44 000 Nantes
From October 18th 2019 to February 3rd 2020
Full price: 8 euros ; Reduced price: 4 euros


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