Title page for ETD etd-06132013-160753

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Blanken, Kara
URN etd-06132013-160753
Title Alexandre Iacovleff: "Exotic Academicism" in Europe and America, (1914-1938)
Degree Master of Arts (M.A.)
Department Art
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Spieth, Darius Committee Chair
Marchand, Suzanne Committee Member
Zucker, Mark Committee Member
  • Art Déco painting
  • exotic academicism
  • Alexandre Iacovleff
Date of Defense 2013-04-11
Availability unrestricted
Art historians often refer to the interwar period of the early twentieth century as la retour à l’ordre. The twenty-one years from 1918 to 1939 represent a return to sober academicism, order, and classicism in art following the destruction and uncertainty caused by the First World War. This mentality of artistic “stability,” combined with the Western fascination for exotic cultures of Africa and Asia, formed the hallmarks of the Art Déco style.

Alexandre Iacovleff was a Russian artist who embodied the international artistic spirit of Art Déco from 1914 until his death in 1938. His paintings and drawings, rendered in a style that can be described as “exotic academicism,” were a reflection of a marriage between the contrasting principles of classicism and Orientalism. Most known for his African and Chinese portraits, Iacovleff rendered the unfamiliar, exotic “Other” in a Western academic style. These portraits were completed throughout the duration of his position as official artist of the African and trans-Asiatic Citroën expeditions. They reflected the Western obsession with all things exotic, and stand as testaments of the eclecticism of Art Déco.

What makes Iacovleff an ideal representative of Art Déco painting is his international status. As a Russian “traveling artist” who lived in China, Africa, Paris, Capri, and the United States, he retained an academic yet diverse stylistic vocabulary that granted relevance to his work on an international level. His relevance, in turn, legitimized the versatility of the Art Déco style during the 1920s and 1930s.

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