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Rustic Cubism

Anne Dangar and the Art Colony at Moly-Sabata

In Rustic Cubism, Bruce Adams tells the fascinating story of Moly-Sabata, an art colony founded in the Rhône Valley during the height of French modernism by Cubist pioneer Albert Gleizes. Following his social and spiritual agenda of earthly labor and a Celtic-medievalist view of Christianity, Gleizes’ disciples worked to fuse Cubism with a revival of ancient agrarian, artisanal traditions. The most important and committed member of this experimental commune was ceramicist Anne Dangar (1885-1951).

In part a gripping biography of this Australian expatriate, Rustic Cubism chronicles Dangar’s personal battles and the tumult of the World War II era during her tempestuous tenure at Moly-Sabata. Dangar dedicated herself to the colony’s aims by working in the region’s village potteries, combining their vernacular elements with Gleizes’ design methods to arrive at a type of rustic Cubism. Her work there would ultimately be rewarded; her pieces can today be found in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenza, the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, and many other museums.

Rustic Cubism places Dangar at the heart of Moly-Sabata’s alternative art movement—one that, in its nostalgic present, attempted to construct a culture based on the distant past. Generously illustrated with photographs of the art and social milieu of the period, this captivating and original narrative makes a considerable contribution to our understanding of French modernism and early twentieth-century cultural politics as well as of the life of a most talented and intriguing female artist.

272 pages | 150 halftones, 24 color plates | 8 1/2 x 11 | © 2004

Art: Art--Biography, Art--General Studies, European Art


"Adams skillfully creates a grid of the multiple strands of a story . . . With a cliffhanger at the end of each of its four parts, there is as much here for the reader interested in social history as in art history. Rustic Cubism is a gorgeously illustrated book . . .--The Age, Australia

Penny Webb | The Age, Australia

“It is against the backdrop of this sorry relationship that Bruce Adams has written his remarkable book. . . . Adams handles all these matters with patience and delicacy. When combined with the numerous images of Dangar’s beautiful pottery, this scholarly yet approachable study amounts to the most complete account to this point of a remarkable figure . . .”--Bookforum

A. D. S. Donaldson | Bookforum

"A very useful addition to the small but growing body of literature on this school that may, if I and a few other people are right, contain the seeds of an alternative future for painting."

Peter Brooke | Art Book

"Aside from twenty-four colour plates, the text is lavishly illustrrated with black and white photographs, mixing archival sources with exquisite prints. . . . The book does justice to the complexity of being an early twentieth-century Modernist convert, whose zeal was parallel to, and sometimes became quite literally, a religious experience."

Ann Stephen | Art Monthly Australia

“This handsome book feels like a resolution of Adams’s fascination with Moly-Sabata. Susan Paull’s photographs are never less than splendid. . . . Rustic Cubism is a model of a critical study that combines art history and social history.”

Penny Webb | Australian Book Review

"The artwork produced by Anne Dangar is breathtaking. The beautiful colour illustrations . . . record, and do full justice to, pottery and glazed tiles which rank amongst the most important of their type produced in the twentieth century. . . . Adams’s book reminds us of our own periodic need to return to our origins and collective myths, and in so doing gives one such heroic attempt, at the art colony of Moly-Sabata, the historical prominence it richly deserves."

Vaughan Hart | Utopian Studies

"In the depth of Adams’s immersion in his subject and the unforced nature of his writing there is a moving, almost artisanal quality, an impression that is enhanced by the book’s superior production values. . . . Rustic Cubism is truly revolutionary art history, quietly and undemonstratively  reversing the prevailing assumptions of the past fifty years of Australian art-writing."

Rex Butler | Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Note on Sources
Introduction: The Potter’s Story
Part One: Beginnings
1. Anne Dangar’s Formative Years in Sydney and Paris
2. The Generative Influences upon Albert Gleizes’ Plans for Moly-Sabata
3. The Foundation and Early Years of Moly-Sabata
Part Two: Growth
4. The Spiral & the Circle: Lessons on Spirituality, Form and Place
5. The Life of a Village Potter
6. Politics and Folklore in the 1930s
Part Three: Transformation
7. Morocco and the Outbreak of War
8. Conflict and Collaboration: The War Years at Moly-Sabata
Part Four: Renewal
9. Postwar Populism: Anne Dangar’s "Return to France"
10. Cubism and Religion
11. Catholicism and Identity: Anne Dangar’s Last Years


New South Wales Ministry for the Arts: New South Wales Premier's History Awards

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