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Faure, Élie

Date born: 1873

Place born: Sainte-Foy-la-Grande, Gascony, France

Date died: 1937

Place died: Paris, France

Critic and self-taught historian of French and Italian art. Faure was trained as a surgeon and spent his early years as a medical doctor, serving as a medical officer in the First World War. He received his first job in the art world from the writer Émile Zola (1840-1902) who secured Faure’s appointment as editor of L’Aurore, the paper in which Zola published his article "J’Accuse". Faure’s 1904 pamphlet on Velasquez led him to establish an adult school in 1905, where he delivered a series of lectures entitled L’Histoire de l’art. This series was later compiled into five volumes, published in 1920-1921. He later published monographs on Paul Cézanne (1913), André Derain (1923) Chaim Soutine (1929) as well as a biography of Napoleon (1921). Between 1931-1932 he made a world tour, and when in Mexico stayed with the artist Diego Rivera.

Faure's History of Art, translated by Walter Pach, was one of the first art histories to examine art primarily in relation to civilization, according to the Art Digest of 1937. His highly poetic view of art history was most clearly contained in the final volume of the History of Art, his Spirit of Forms. Here he used what is now the familiar compare/contrast method of art pedagogy, comparing French sculpture with Greek, etc. Like his methological exact opposite, Arnold Hauser, and some others, Faure saw modern painting as dead, contending that film was the true successor of the arts. His History of Art was highly popular both in France and the United States, remaining available in paperback reprints long after the author's death. The writer/art historian André Malraux popularized many of Faure's ideas in his own work. LMW/LRS

Home Country: France

Sources: Columbia Dictionary of Modern European Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1947, pp. 257-8; Bazin 180, 359-362; [obituaries:] New York Times, November 1, 1937; Art Digest 12, no 4 (November 15, 1937): 16; [Obituary with medical assessment] Roger, H. La Presse médicale 45: 1790.

Bibliography: Œuvres complètes. Paris: J.J. Pauvert,1964; Napoléon. Paris: G. Crès, 1921, English: Napoleon. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1924; Histoire de l'art. Paris: G. Crés and Cie, 1924-28; Velázquez: biographie critique. Paris: H. Laurens, 1903; and Romains, Jules, Vildrac, Charles, and Werth, Léon. Henri-Matisse. Paris: G. Crés & cie, 1923; and Verhaeren, Emile. Sensations. Paris: G. Crès & cie,1928; Fonction du cinéma, de la cinéplastique à son destin social. Geneva: Éditions Gontheir, 1964.

Subject's name: Élie Faure