The question of figuration in art was constantly revisited throughout the 20th century, although shaken at times by the tragedies of world history, and the temptation to abstraction, the primary phenomenon of modern and contemporary painting. Between the wars, Jean Hugo (1894-1984) expressed the malaise of his turbulent times, and the quest for a kind of spiritual salvation. The work of sculptor Germaine Richier (1904-1959) explores questions of human identity again and again in her work – an identity shaken by the Second World War, pursued to its farthest reaches, scrutinised and probed to its darkest depths. Abstraction emerged in the 20th century as a new way forward for art, enabling it to explore the modern era, an age of speed, passions, colour, and sensation. At the end of the Second World War, the second Paris School marked the triumph of a generation of painters including De Staël, Poliakoff, or Vieira da Silva, all distinguished by their lyrical, spontaneous use of colour.
The post-war period, between figuration and abstraction
The Paris School