Paris, 1910-1920 Inspires the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts


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Philadelphia, PA -- The time was 1910 through 1920, the waning days of the “Belle Epoque" (or the “Beautiful Era"). The place was Paris, where a previous generation of artists had already changed the rules with their groundbreaking leap into Impressionism. The City of Lights was a magnet for artistic rebels who reshaped and redefined art, and the atmosphere was one of unprecedented imagination and creativity that would dictate how the world defined and interpreted art for the rest of the 20th century and beyond.

The first-ever Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA), April 7-May 1, 2011, takes its inspiration from that place and time. Here's a look at what was happening in Paris, 1910-1920:

As political tensions rose throughout Europe and traditional social orders were challenged, artists from all disciplines responded to the general sense of unrest, throwing away the rule books and creating works that were, in many ways, as unpredictable as the times.

Many of these artists were drawn to Paris, including a brace of Russians who left their country for France after the 1905 revolution. These migr artists and their French counterparts proceeded to transform every known genre of artistic expression and create some new ones as well. In 1909, the Parisian newspaper Le Figaro published poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto. Signed by a number of artists who shared Marinetti's call for modernization and cultural rejuvenation, the manifesto virtually assured the evolution of art to modern, yet-to-be imagined forms.

From Collaborative Rule-Breaking To Classic Works:
Collaborating with some of the brightest talents of the era, Serge Diaghlilev established the Ballets Russes, whose impact extended far beyond dance. Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Debussy, Strauss, Ravel and Satie were just some of the composers Diaghilev commissioned to collaborate with equally brilliant and innovative visual artists and choreographers. Diaghilev had an uncanny ability to conjure up the extraordinary, recruiting exciting young artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Roerich and Cocteau to design sets and costumes, and equally talented choreographers like Balanchine, Massine, Nijinsky and Nijinska to work with his composers. Diaghilev's collaborative teams created several avant-garde ballets and operas that defined a new way of seeing, hearing and experiencing theater, dance and music. Works that are now considered classics--among them The Firebird, Pulcinella, Afternoon of a Faun, Daphnis and Chloe and The Rite of Spring--captivated, and on occasion, scandalized audiences.

Turning The Page On Literature:
The salons of Paris during that era not only created a network of writers, they provided a forum for authors to experiment with new forms and styles. While Marcel Proust was getting to work on his magnum opus la recherche du temps perdu (a title once translated as Remembrance of Things Past and recently re-translated as In Search of Lost Times), Gertrude Stein's first-ever published essays--based on the works of Matisse and Picasso--appeared in Alfred Stieglitz's periodical Camera Work. Edith Wharton published The Age of Innocence while living in Paris and counted writer Jean Cocteau among her friends. And one can only imagine the influence that Ezra Pound's friendships with Dadaist and Surrealist artists had on shaping his Modernist poetry.

A Multicultural Haven:
As friendships and competition among contemporaries blossomed, creativity, not race, was the calling card among artists. African-American artist Henry O. Tanner found such acceptance in Paris that except for occasional visits back to the United States, he lived much of his adult life in France. Meanwhile, Japanese migr Tsuguharu Fujita, a popular figure in the artist community of Montparnasse, applied French oil techniques to Japanese ink traditions. In his free time, he took dance lessons from Isadora Duncan, the modern-dance innovator whose bohemian lifestyle and sensuality both delighted and titillated audiences in Europe and America.

The city's laissez-faire attitude about race framed the social mores for years to come, setting the stage for the arrival and success of James Reese Europe and his Hellfighters, a regimental band sent overseas during World War I. Europe and his band brought the unfamiliar yet irresistible lilt and rhythms of African-American music to European ears for one of the first times and made a lasting impression on composers from Stravinsky to Debussy. Paris also welcomed such young artists as the great singer/dancer/actress/star Josephine Baker.

As the decade came to a close and the aftermath of World War I scarred much of Europe, Paris in many ways remained unchanged. Always a focal point for creativity, artists from all genres continued to find inspiration here, drawn to its indefinable, uninhibited spirit and reinforcing Paris' reputation as a muse for artists everywhere.

Kimmel Center, Inc., a charitable, not-for-profit organization, provides a rich diversity of programming through its Kimmel Center Presents sponsored by Citi and Broadway Series of performances, as well as arts in education and community outreach. The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and the Academy of Music together serve as home to eight Resident Company performing arts organizations, including The Philadelphia Orchestra, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Ballet, Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, American Theater Arts for Youth, Philadanco, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society and Peter Nero and the Philly Pops. Kimmel Center, Inc. owns, manages, supports and maintains The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, which includes Verizon Hall, Perelman Theater, Innovation Studio and the Merck Arts Education Center. Kimmel Center, Inc. also manages the Academy of Music, owned by The Philadelphia Orchestra Association.

The Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA), inspired by the Kimmel Center, launches the city's arts and cultural scene onto the world stage with a three-week festival featuring Philadelphia performances and activities designed to appeal to loyal fans, as well as the new-to-the-arts crowd. Based on the philosophy of collaboration, creativity and innovation, PIFA programs comprise newly commissioned works, unexpected partnerships with both local and international artists and non-traditional and emerging art forms, along with classic performances that engage residents and visitors alike. With the overarching theme of Paris 1910-1920, PIFA celebrates works from and inspired by the period and the general innovative spirit of the time. Funded in part with a $10 million grant from Philadelphia philanthropist Mrs. Leonore Annenberg, whose vision for a city-wide arts extravaganza shaped the festival, PIFA takes place April 7 through May 1, 2011.

For the most up to date information, contact PIFA at (215) 790-5800 or visit our website.

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