Art and politics during World War II

Kemper Art Museum hosts panel discussion March 7

Georges Braque, Baluster and Skull (recto), 1938. Oil on canvas, 17 3/4 x 21 5/8”. Private collection. © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

In the late 1930s, as Europe and the world drew ever closer to war, the French painter Georges Braque added a new motif to his roster of still life objects: the human skull. Yet Braque, the co-inventor of Cubism, denied editorial intention. The skull, he insisted, was merely a formal device.

Braque’s position stands in striking contrast to that of his countryman, the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. In the aftermath of the war, Sartre argued that literature, and by extension all forms of culture, had a moral duty to be socially engaged.

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 7, the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum will explore both positions as part of “Committed Culture: A Panel Discussion on Politics and Aesthetics During World War II.”

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Georges Braque and the Cubist Still Life, 1928-1945, the event will feature short presentations and a roundtable discussion about how these ideas — autonomous artistic production vs. political engagement — are addressed in a variety of art forms, including literature, film, theater and visual art.

Panelists will include:

* Colin Burnett, PhD, assistant professor of film and media studies in Arts & Sciences
* Karen K. Butler, PhD, assistant curator, Kemper Art Museum
* Lionel Cuillé, PhD, Jane and Bruce Robert Professor of French, Webster University
* John Klein, PhD, associate professor of art history and archaeology in Arts & Sciences
* Stamos Metzidakis, PhD, professor of French and comparative literature in Arts & Sciences
* Henry Schvey, PhD, professor of drama and comparative literature in Arts & Sciences

“Committed Culture” is free and open to the public and takes place in Steinberg Hall Auditorium. A reception immediately will precede the talk at 6 p.m. in the Kemper Art Museum.

Georges Braque and the Cubist Still Life, 1928-1945 remains on view through April 21. Regular hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The museum is closed Tuesdays and major holidays.

For more information, call (314) 935-4523 or visit