In 1926, the Galerie Druet in Paris made waves presenting a group of young painters who had spurned modernist abstraction and returned to a form of figurative painting. For most of them this was the first time they had exhibited, but their impact was considerable. Art critic Waldemar George baptized them the ‘Neo-Romantics’ or the ‘Neo-Humanists’. They were influenced by Picasso, in particular his Blue and Rose periods, but went beyond him to forge new ways of painting. These were artists who liked to play with forgotten references and obsolete visual devices such as trompe l’oeil.
Theatres of Melancholy is the first book in many years on the Neo-Romantics. The works of Christian Bérard, Pavel Tchelitchew, and Eugene and Leonid Berman – which also included theatre, opera and ballet design – attracted the admiration of Gertrude Stein, George Balanchine, Edith Sitwell and Christian Dior, among others. Patrick Mauriès’s richly illustrated, engaging book sheds light on the group’s brooding and often nostalgic work, which will be seen as a revelation by a new audience today.