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How French Culture Has Shaped American Art

Have you ever admired a painting by Mary Cassatt or strolled past the Chrysler Building in awe? If yes, you, my dear friend, have witnessed firsthand French culture’s impact on American art. France has been at the forefront of artistic and cultural innovation for centuries. It has produced some of history’s most celebrated artists, architects, and designers. That said, it goes to reason that many countries would adopt the elements of French culture — and the United States is one of them! But how French culture has shaped American art exactly remains the question. If you wonder what story lies behind your favorite painting or architectural wonders, we invite you to join us on this journey. A journey that will explore the intersection of French culture and American creativity.

Orsay Museum. Photo Credit:

Ways in Which French Culture Has Shaped American Art

Many American artists have recognized French culture as a major source of inspiration. As a result, some of the greatest works of art have seen the light of day. With that in mind, we explore how this mesmerizing country and its awe-inspiring culture have contributed to American art.

Impact of French Artists on American Artists

One of essential ways French culture has affected American art is through the work of French artists who have influenced American artists. For instance, the Impressionist movement, which started in France at the end of the 19th century, greatly impacted American artists like Mary Cassat. Cassat was born in the United States but has lived in France for most of her life. Having witnessed the works of many Impressionists, she incorporated the movement’s characteristics in her paintings. She was particularly moved by Impressionism’s portrayal of the effects of light and color, which can be seen in her work.

Influence of French Art Movements on American Art and Design

Impressionism isn’t the only movement that has forever changed American art history. Art Nouveau and Art Deco, which emphasized ornamental and decorative elements, had a considerable influence on it, or rather, on American design and architecture. These movements emerged in France at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. However, it wasn’t until the 1920s and 30s that they peaked in the United States. As a result of their influence, some of America’s most famous skyscrapers were built, including the Chrysler Building in New York City.

Chrysler Building in New York City. Photo Credit:

Role of French Cultural Institutions and Events

While it’s only natural that artists and art movements would impact the art itself, what’s interesting is that French cultural institutions and even events played a significant role in shaping the artistic taste of Americans. The Louvre Museum in Paris, which happens to be one of the most famous museums in the world, has long been a sanctuary for lovers of art and, thus, a source of inspiration for many. Speaking of events, the Salon des Refusés has influenced American artists’ perception of art. This controversial exhibition in Paris in the 19th century showcased rejected works, directly challenging traditional artistic conventions and setting up new directions in which French art would go.

Louvre Museum. Photo Credit:

Examples of American Artists Influenced by French Culture

In addition to these more prominent influences, French culture has directly affected many American artists. Let’s take Edward Hopper as an example. During his trip to Paris, he encountered the work of Edgar Degas, a French realist painter, which forever changed how he saw art. Then we also have Jackson Pollock, who was influenced by the French Surrealist movement. A movement that heavily focuses on spontaneity and freedom of expression.

French Culture Has Shaped American Art and Changed It for Good

Ways in which French culture has shaped American art go beyond the movements like Impressionism, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco. They even go beyond French institutions and events. Its influence can be seen in the works of various artists, many of which continue to incorporate this country’s cultural elements into their art to this day. With that in mind, the American art we know today would be quite different without the French contribution. We are glad that isn’t the case, aren’t you?

Meta: There are many ways in which French culture has shaped American art. Join us as we explore how this country’s influence has become remarkable!


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