In the years after World War I the paintings of the School of Paris turn pale-complexioned, silver-toned. This new subdued style, which is occasionally disrupted by flashes of overly bright color, like party makeup put on in a pinch, unites the work of Braque, Derain, Gris, Léger, Matisse, and Picasso. The elegant grays call to mind something polished, beautifully composed (a figure composition by David, or a late landscape by Corot), and the retrospective glance of the modern artist (who has already by his own hand reformed tradition) is interesting precisely because it suggests misgivings, second thoughts, unease. The new style can accommodate Léger’s machine-age forms, Picasso’s brittle, Flaxman-style lines, and Derain’s and Matisse’s thinned-out pigments, with their reminiscences of the light of a sun-bleached Southern afternoon. All of this is in some sense neoclassical, and all...


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