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 will 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.
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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).