In the early years of the twentieth century, Paris became a magnet for artists from all over the world and the focus of the principal innovations of modern art – the term School of Paris grew up to describe this phenomenon

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  • Amedeo Modigliani, 'Portrait of a Girl' circa 1917

    Amedeo Modigliani
    Portrait of a Girl circa 1917
    Oil on canvas
    support: 806 x 597 mm frame: 992 x 795 x 100 mm
    Bequeathed by C. Frank Stoop 1933

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  • Chaïm Soutine, 'Landscape at Céret' circa 1920-1

    Cham Soutine
    Landscape at Cret circa 1920-1
    Oil on canvas
    support: 559 x 838 mm frame: 911 x 1121 x 109 mm
    Purchased 1964 ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2002

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  • Marc Chagall, 'The Poet Reclining' 1915

    Marc Chagall
    The Poet Reclining 1915
    Oil on board
    support: 772 x 775 mm frame: 953 x 960 x 91 mm
    Purchased 1942 ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2002

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During the nineteenth century Paris, France, became the centre of a powerful national school of painting and sculpture, culminating in the dazzling innovations of impressionism and post-impressionism. As a result, in the early years of the twentieth century Paris became a magnet for artists from all over the world and the birthplace for some of the principal innovations of modern art, notably fauvism, cubism, abstract art and surrealism.

The twin chiefs (chefs d’école) were Pablo Picasso, who settled in Paris from his native Spain in 1904, and the Frenchman Henri Matisse. Also in 1904, the pioneer modern sculptor Constantin Brancusi arrived in Paris from Romania, and in 1906 the painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani from Italy. Chaïm Soutine arrived from Russia in 1911. The Russian painter Marc Chagall lived in Paris from 1910–14 and then again from 1923–39 and 1947–9, after which he moved to the South of France. The Dutch pioneer of pure abstract painting, Piet Mondrian, settled in Paris in 1920 and Wassily Kandinsky in 1933.

The heyday of the School of Paris was ended by the Second World War, although the term continued to be used to describe the artists of Paris. However, from about 1950 its dominance ceded to the rise of the New York school.