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Memoria e Ricerca

The possibility of a socialist photomural

di Romy Golan
in Memoria e Ricerca n.s. 33 (2010), p. 81

The photomural was the medium of choice of the newly elected Front Populaire at the 1937 Paris World Exposition. There was a risk involved for no medium was more politically fraught during the 1930s, and indeed it was also a first for French artists who had shown till then a marked disinterest for anything redolent of Agitprop. As the critic Philippe Diolé announced in the pages of Beaux Arts: «Photomontage is a difficult medium. Invariably, when confronting such images, the viewers will say, depending on their political istance, that the images are either Fascist or Soviet. And in both cases you can be sure that the adjective will be used in a pejorative sense». And yet, with a revolutionary élan rare in interwar France, Lucien Mazenod, Raymond Gid, Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand and Fernand Léger (the last two teaming up in a way that called to mind the charismatic Soviet photomonteur couples of Alexandr Rodchenko and Varvara Stepanova) produced exhilarating if ephemeral images. Key words: Paris, 1937, Photomural, Front Populair, Léger, Le Corbusier