This catalogue of the forthcoming exhibition at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice observes the 20th-century history of art from an unconventional viewpoint. Linked inescapably to the end of the previous century, modern art is seen here neither as a break with the recent past, nor as the logical consequence of Impressionism and Cezanne's work. 20th-century artistic expression has for the first time been traced back to the work of the French painter Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898), who in his wall paintings as well as in his easel paintings, invented a completely new, though tradition-based, style. His paintings - such as Hope, Maidens on the Seashore and the Poor Fisherman - as well as his decorations at the Sorbonne, in the Pantheon in Paris and in the Musee des Beaux-Arts in Lyons greatly influenced his contemporaries and entire generations after him, including Seurat, Gauguin and Cezanne. Equally indebted to him are the great European symbolist painters, from Munch to Hodler, and later Nabis, Bonnard, Vuillard, Vallotton and the sculptor Maillol. His most prestigious disciples in the 20th century were Matisse and Picasso, who remained loyal to him all their lives. Scholarly essays analyse Puvis de Chavanne's work and all his affiliations, offering rich critical and photographic data on the 89 artists - among them Gauguin, Picasso, Leger and Duchamp - whose works will be displayed in Venice.
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Serge Lemoine is the director of the Musee des Beaux-Arts in Grenoble.
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