Charles Belden, Paris Trick Roper, circa 1950. MS 003, Charles Belden Collection, McCracken Research Library, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming, Gift of Verna Belden.

“The American West: A French Appropriation” at Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art

March 22 & 23, 2016
Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Paris

When Buffalo Bill’s Wild West traveled to Paris in 1889, the New York Times reported that the display was going to be “managed to suit French ideas.” What constituted “French ideas” of and investments in the cultures of the American West? This two-day symposium explores the reception of ideas and images of the American West as they circulated and were appropriated in France in history, writing, art, visual culture, philosophy, ethnographic displays, and film. While the German and British fascination with the American West has been the subject of multiple books, there has been no parallel study of the artistic and historical role of the American West in France. This symposium begins to redress that scholarly lacuna by asking how the American West in the French imagination has been defined dialectically to serve various cultural constituents.

Papers address the construction and reception of ideas of the American West in the France and contextualize representations of various aspects of the West—such as landscape, indigenous populations, the railroad, and the cowboy—within their historical moment and their trajectories. This bilingual symposium offers papers in English and French that relate to French art history and visual culture from the eighteenth century to today; studies that consider the appropriations of the American West in other international contexts; and the curatorial practice of designing displays on this topic in France.

Organized by Dr. Emily C. Burns, Terra Foundation for American Art Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at the Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA) and Assistant Professor of Art History, Auburn University. The symposium is supported by the Institut national d’histoire de l’art in partnership with the research groups LARCA (Laboratoire de recherches sur les cultures Anglophones UMR 8225, Université Paris Diderot), HAR (Histoire des arts et représentations EA 4414, Université Paris-Ouest Nanterre la Défense), InTRu (Interactions, transferts, ruptures artistiques et culturels EA 6301, Université François-Rabelais de Tours), and the Terra Foundation for American Art, with additional support from Institut Universitaire de France (IUF).

Please click here to view and download the complete symposium program.

Introduction by Dr. Emily C. Burns, Terra Foundation for American Art Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at the Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA) and Assistant Professor of Art History, Auburn University



Chair: Marie-Claude Strigler, maître de conférences honoraire, Université Paris 3–Sorbonne Nouvelle


“Les Osages à Paris ou les vicissitudes de l’exotisme américain” by Peggy Davis, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)


“Images et histoires du trappeur dix-neuviémiste (1850–1880). Un contre-héroïsme français dans l’Ouest américain” by Luca Di Gregorio, Université de Liège


“Culture Coding and ‘Contact Zones’: Eugène Delacroix’s Moroccans and A. J. Miller’s Amerindians,” by Joyce Carol Polistena, Pratt Institute


Popular Culture

Chair: Pierre Lagayette, professeur émérite de civilisation américaine, Université Paris-Sorbonne


“Mormonism as Polygamist Secte Rouge in Albert Robida’s Third Republic France,” by Daryl Lee, Brigham Young University


“Shoot-Out at the Ciné-Club: Hollywood Westerns and French Film Theory,” by Matt Hauske, University of Chicago


“Brigitte Bardot on the American Frontier: The ‘French Western’ sous-rature,” by Timothy Scheie, University of Rochester


“Borderlands en guerres, nations en gestation dans la bande dessinée western franco-belge des années 1950 aux années 1980,” by Tangi Villerbu, Université de La Rochelle


Traveling Stereotypes: Art

Chair: Katherine Bourguignon, Curator, Terra Foundation for American Art


“Danse, performance, résistance? Le corps amérindien en représentation dans les œuvres exposées à Paris au tournant du XXème siècle,” by Agathe Cabau, Université Paris 1—Panthéon Sorbonne


“Displacements/Dépaysement: the Surrealists in the American West,” by Samantha Kavky, Pennsylvania State University—Berks



Chair: Christine Barthe, responsable de l’Unité patrimoniale des collections photographiques, Musée du Quai Branly


“Aesthetics and Economics of the American West at the 1867 Paris World Fair,” by François Brunet, Clémence Guy, and Jessica Talley, Larca—Université Paris Diderot


“Paysage et révolution industrielle: Saint-Étienne, le sauvage comme modèle,” by Claire Bellet, École Nationale Supérieure du Paysage de Versailles


“Anthropological Appropriations: Prince Roland Bonaparte’s Photographic Encounters with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in Paris, 1889,” by Emily Voelker, Boston University