Dealing with the history of the art documentary, this research project focuses on its “Golden Age,” which can be situated in the 1940s and 1950s in countries such as France, Italy, and Belgium. Before the breakthrough of television, directors such as Luciano Emmer, Alain Resnais, Henri Storck and Paul Haesaerts presented the art documentary as a truly experimental genre that enabled them to combine cinematic experiments with artistic profundity.
On the one hand, the project investigates the aesthetic of the postwar experimental art documentary, which entailed specific forms of narrativization as well as specific cinematic devices such as camera movements, editing, animation techniques, and special effects. As a result, experimental art documentaries developed into a highly self-reflexive genre that enabled directors to investigate the relations between film and the other visual arts by juxtaposing movement versus stasis, narrative versus iconic images, and cinematic space versus pictorial surface.
On the other hand, the project will situate these films in a broader cultural and social context. It will investigate its almost completely forgotten institutional background, in particular the FIFA (Fédération International du Film sur l’Art), which was founded in 1948 and involved the participation of leading filmmakers, producers, and museum officials. In addition, the project will analyze the phenomenon of the experimental art documentary in the light of the postwar politics of popularization and vulgarization of the fine arts, which also entailed the breakthrough of the illustrated art book.