Innocence Abroad: The Construction and Marketing of an American Artistic Identity in Paris, 1880-1910

Date of Award

Winter 12-15-2012

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Art History & Archaeology

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Between the end of the Civil War in 1865 and the start of World War I in 1914, thousands of American artists sought training in France. The resulting heightening of transnational contact polarized cultural differences between French and American identities. Many American artists adopted varying ideas of cultural innocence in response to international expectations of American character. This identity performance and reception were mutually reinforcing. As French artists and critics came to imagine an American artistic belatedness and cultural innocence, American artists began to dramatize those characteristics abroad. Within this transnational reciprocal relationship, the American community in France adopted the stereotypes associated with a naïve American culture in social interactions, as well as in iconographic and stylistic choices in their art. Concurrently, notions of childlike innocence and the "innocent eye" were appropriated in France and the United States as essential elements of international modernist art. This dissertation argues that innocence, along with the related concepts of naïveté and guilelessness, reverberated in interwoven international artistic discourses of nationalism and modernism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For American artists and writers in late nineteenth-century France, innocence was a fundamental discourse that allowed them to construct their artistic projects as variously individual, modern, and national.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Angela Miller

Committee Members

Iver Bernstein, Elizabeth Childs, John Klein, Carol Lynne Tatlock, William Wallace, Susan Waller


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/K7NK3BZT

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