CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

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At Home in the Colonies? The Renoirs, painter and filmmaker, in India and Algeria

Session 14 The Other and the Foreign: Contact, Curiosity, and Creative Exchange

Associate and Full Professor, Université de Montréal


I will explore issues of belonging and at-homeness in a comparative study of 1880s representations of French colonial Algeria by painter Auguste Renoir and representations from newly decolonized India by the work of the painter's son, Jean Renoir, in his first color film,The River (1951). This study engages broad questions in studies of empire and globalization, while focusing on particular cases. It is part of a larger project that examines art that achieves the apprehension, recognition, and appreciation of difference without otherness. Ultimately, the questions treated here will be: Can one be at home in the colonies? Can Europeans’ homes and gardens in the colonial, decolonizing, and postcolonial settings overcome empire?

This paper will explore those spaces and points of meetings and the positions taken by each of these seminal artists at the apogee of French imperialism in the nineteenth century and as the sun began to set on the British-- and French--empire in the twentieth. Necessarily, this paper will then take us from Paris and Hollywood to Algeria and India and back again. Finally, the pairing of the Renoirs will inevitably bring into relief different generations's restaging and refiguring of colonial representations.


Todd Porterfield’s research, teaching, academic programming, and curating address international and intercultural relations, imperialism, and globalisation in the 19th-century and increasingly in contemporary art. A New York University Professor, he previously was Canada Research Chair at the Université de Montréal, after teaching at Rice and Princeton Universities. He has also been invited professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales and the

Université de Paris-Nanterre, having received fellowships from the Fulbright, Huntington, Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Oxford University’s New College, and Yale British Arts Center. A founding member and former president of the International Consortium on the History of Art, he conceived and directed the first Summer Research Academy on Encounters in World Art History at the Getty Research Institute in 2012. He is the author of The Allure of Empire: Art in the Service of French Imperialism, 1798-1836 (1998); coauthor of Staging Empire: Napoleon, Ingres, and David (2006); editor of The Efflorescence of Caricature, 1759-1838 (2011); and the guest curator and author of last years Oxford Ashmolean Museum exhibition, Love Bites: Caricatures by James Gillray. In 2016 and 2017, he will be teaching at NYU Paris.