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Rustic Cubism: Ann Dangar and the Art Colony at Moly-Sabata

by Bruce Adams University of Chicago Press
Pub Date:
Hbk 272 pages
AU$154.00 NZ$158.26
Product Status: Available in Approx 14 days
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In Rustic Cubism, Bruce Adams tells the fascinating story of Moly-Sabata, an art colony founded in the Rhône Valley during the height of French modernism by Cubist pioneer Albert Gleizes. Following his social and spiritual agenda of earthly labor and a Celtic-medievalist view of Christianity, Gleizes' disciples worked to fuse Cubism with a revival of ancient agrarian, artisanal traditions. The most important and committed member of this experimental commune was ceramicist Anne Dangar (1885-1951).

In part a gripping biography of this Australian expatriate, Rustic Cubism chronicles Dangar's personal battles and the tumult of the World War II era during her tempestuous tenure at Moly-Sabata. Dangar dedicated herself to the colony's aims by working in the region's village potteries, combining their vernacular elements with Gleizes' design methods to arrive at a type of rustic Cubism. Her work there would ultimately be rewarded; her pieces can today be found in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenza, the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, and many other museums.

Rustic Cubism places Dangar at the heart of Moly-Sabata's alternative art movement--one that, in its nostalgic present, attempted to construct a culture based on the distant past. Generously illustrated with photographs of the art and social milieu of the period, this captivating and original narrative makes a considerable contribution to our understanding of French modernism and early twentieth-century cultural politics as well as of the life of a most talented and intriguing female artist.

Adams scrupulously avoids betraying his sentiments in this account of Dangar's journey from relative privilege to penury; from robust vitality to premature demise; and from being a relatively sophisticated painter to becoming a nationally celebrated village potter.

With a cliffhanger at the end of each of its four parts, there is as much here for the reader interested in social history as in art history. Rustic Cubism is a gorgeously illustrated book of 150 black-and-white photographs and 24 colour plates, many of them by Susan Paull.
Penny Webb ''The Age''
150 halftones, 24 color plates.

List of IllustrationsAcknowledgmentsNote on SourcesAbbreviationsIntroduction: The Potter's StoryPart One: Beginnings1. Anne Dangar's Formative Years in Sydney and Paris2. The Generative Influences upon Albert Gleizes' Plans for Moly-Sabata3. The Foundation and Early Years of Moly-SabataPart Two: Growth4. The Spiral & the Circle: Lessons on Spirituality, Form and Place5. The Life of a Village Potter6. Politics and Folklore in the 1930sPart Three: Transformation7. Morocco and the Outbreak of War8. Conflict and Collaboration: The War Years at Moly-SabataPart Four: Renewal9. Postwar Populism: Anne Dangar's "Return to France"10. Cubism and Religion11. Catholicism and Identity: Anne Dangar's Last YearsEpilogueNotesBibliography

"In the depth of Adams's immersion in his subject and the unforced nature of his writing there is a moving, almost artisanal quality, an impression that is enhanced by the book's superior production values. . . . Rustic Cubism is truly revolutionary art history, quietly and undemonstratively  reversing the prevailing assumptions of the past fifty years of Australian art-writing."
University of Sydney