Organized by the Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris-Musées and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, L'Art en guerre, France 1938-1947: From Picasso to Dubuffet shows how, in the ominous and oppressive context of Nazi-occupied France during World War II, the artists of the day rebelled against official slogans by coming up with novel aesthetic solutions that changed the content of art.
During those years, the militaristic efforts of the authorities triggered an automatic reaction of unprecedented vigor from artists, persevering creators forced to take up new tools in order to reveal the truth of their situation and defy official rhetoric. Even in the most terrible places of confinement, hostile to any expression of freedom, they continued to create.
Works by renowned masters such as Pierre Bonnard, Victor Brauner, Alexander Calder, Salvador Dalí, Óscar Domínguez, Jean Dubuffet, Marcel Duchamp, Raoul Dufy, Max Ernst, Jean Fautrier, Alberto Giacometti, Julio González, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Fernand Léger, René Magritte, André Masson, Henri Matisse, Henri Michaux, Joan Miró, Francis Picabia, Pablo Picasso, Pierre Soulages, Nicolas de Staël, Joseph Steib, Yves Tanguy, and Wols, among others, are shown alongside works of survival that convey the despair-driven energy of artists whose names are largely unfamiliar to the general public, arranged in twelve sections that occupy the entire second floor of the Museum.
According to Jacqueline Munck and Laurence Bertrand Dorléac, curators of the show, this unique exhibition will serve to reveal "all that remained in the privacy of homes and studios, of the shelters, internment and concentration camps, prisons, and psychiatric hospitals, in the shadows of history".
This singular exhibition, which presents more than 500 works by approximately one hundred artists, includes documents, photographs, and films brought to light here for the first time, and testifies to how these creators resisted and reacted to adversity, "making war on war" with the only forms and materials available in those times of penury, even in environments of incredible hostility toward any expression of individual freedom.