A European art movement that came about following the First World War and characterized by a return to more traditional approaches to art-making – rejecting the extreme avant-garde tendencies of art in the years leading up to 1918

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  • Pablo Picasso, 'Seated Woman in a Chemise' 1923

    Pablo Picasso
    Seated Woman in a Chemise 1923
    Oil on canvas
    support: 921 x 730 mm frame: 1198 x 1008 x 90 mm
    Bequeathed by C. Frank Stoop 1933 Succession Picasso/DACS 2002

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  • Georges Braque, 'Bather' 1925

    Georges Braque
    Bather 1925
    Oil on board
    support: 670 x 543 mm
    Bequeathed by C. Frank Stoop 1933 ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2004

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  • André Derain, 'Madame Derain in a White Shawl' circa 1919-20

    Andr Derain
    Madame Derain in a White Shawl circa 1919-20
    Oil on canvas
    support: 1955 x 975 mm frame: 2125 x 1136 x 62 mm
    Purchased 1982 ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2002

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The First World War administered a huge shock to European society. One of the artistic responses to it was to reject the extreme avant-garde forms of art that had proliferated before the war and instead adopt more reassuring traditional approaches. The term ‘return to order’ (from the French ‘retour à l’ordre’) is used to describe this phenomenon, and is said to derive from the book of essays by the artist and poet Jean Cocteau, Le rappel a l’ordre, published in 1926.

Many of the artists who had previously been innovators of avant-garde styles turned their back on their previous ideas and approaches. Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso the inventors of cubism, with its fragmentation of reality, abandoned it for more traditional styles. Classicism was an important thread in the return to order, and in the early 1920s Picasso entered a neoclassical phase. Braque painted calm still life and figure pictures which, while still having some cubist characteristics, were simple and readable. The former Fauve painter André Derain and many other artists turned to various forms of realism. Futurism, with its worship of the machine and its enthusiasm for war, was particularly discredited. In Germany the Neue Sachlichkeit (or ‘new objectivity’) can also be seen as part of the return to order.