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Duthuit, Georges

    Full Name: Duthuit, Georges

    Other Names:

    • Georges Duthuit

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 04 June 1891

    Date Died: 09 August 1973

    Place Born: Paris, Île-de-France, France

    Place Died: Aix-en-Provence, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France

    Home Country/ies: France

    Subject Area(s): Byzantine (culture or style), Medieval (European), and Modern (style or period)

    Career(s): art historians and biographers

    Institution(s): École du Louvre


    Writer, Byzantinist and Matisse scholar. Duthuit’s father was a Parisian architect and his mother from landowning family in Auvergne. Both parents succumbed to tuberculosis when Duthuit was twelve and he was sent to live with an indifferent and brutally strict uncle. He learned to live by his wits, developing an engaging personality. As a school he discovered the art of Matisse in the Salon des Indépendents of 1907. At age 19 he met the enigmatic British art cognocenti Matthew Stewart Prichard at a Left-bank vegitarian cafe; Duthuit became Prichard’s most brilliant pre-war disciples (Spurning). An aderhent of Bergsonian esthetics, Prichard advised the young Duthuit that the purest principles of art were to be found in Byzantine art, Mozart and Matisse (Apollo). Duthuit had completed nearly three years of an eight-year military stint when the First World War broke out; as a seasoned soldier, he was among the first to be sent into action. He spent his military leaves at Issy, the home of the artist Henri Matissee. There he met the artist’s daughter, Marguerite Matisse (1895-1982). After the war, he abandoned plans to study architecture in favor esthics. Duthuit believed that civilization was at a point similar to that during the time of the sacking of Constantinople by the Franks. He planned to write a thesis on the lost art of the Byzantine Copts. Duthuit married Matisse’s daughter in 1923 and published a book on Renoir. He accompanied Matisse himself on a 1925 trip to Sicily. He lectured as an adjunct professor at the École du Louvre, assisting the head of the Oriental section, Georges Salles, in a book on Byzantine art. His research took him to the Kaiser-Friedrich Museum in Berlin Bernheims, the gallery representing Matisse, encouraged his son-in-law to write a major book on him in 1928. Duthuit spent years researching it as well as a thesis on Coptic art. In the early 1930s he published two books on Coptic art, hoping for a government posting in Cairo, which never materialized. Meanwhile, the Matisse book, which the artist hoped would become a catalogue raisonne, was relinguished of his publishers until Christian Zervos, an art historian and publisher of Cahiers d’art took it over. Duthuit frequently travelled to England, joining the Gargoyle Club in London, the Bohemian bar run by Prichard-ite David Tennant. In 1933 Duthuit was exposed for having an affair with the wife of Sacheverell Reresby Sitwell, Georgia Sitwell (1905/6-1980); Matisse forbade him to continue writing about him. Duthuit published a survey of the Fauves painters in 1949, reviving interest in this group which had long been neglected. After Matisse’s death in 1954, Duthuit took as his assistant a young literature scholar, Pierre E. Schneider (b. 1925) to again publish a monograph. Duthuit never finished the book, but Schneider became the major Matisse scholar of the following generation, publishing a catalogue raisonné from much of what Duthuit uncovered. In 1956 Duthuit issued a castigation of André Malraux and Malraux’s book Le musée imaginaire in his Le musée inimaginable (Unimaginable Musuem). He and the poet Pierre Reverdy (1889-1960) issued a book on Matisse’s final works, Dernières oeuvres de Matisse, 1950-1954 in 1958. In later years he became known as a scholar of the playright Samuel Beckett (1906-1989). Duthuit wrote on the lesser artists Riopelle, Bram Van Velde and Nicolas de Staël, and the work of Matisse. Yves Bonnefoy edited his writings after his death. Duthuit, along with E. H. Gombrich, virulently objected to Malraux’s concept of an art history/theory where context would be secondary to the psychological forms themselves, as Malraux stated in his book Voices of Silence. Clever, disrespectful and exceedingly funny and handsome (Spurling), his art histories are seldom consulted today.

    Selected Bibliography

    Byzance et l’art du XIIe siècle. Paris: Stock, 1926; La sculpture copte: statues–bas-reliefs–masques. Paris:G. Van Oest, 1931; and Volbach, Wolfgang, and Salles, Georges. Art byzantin; cent planches reproduisant un grand nombre de pièces choisies parmi les plus représentatives des diverses. Paris: A. Lévy, 1933; Mystique chinoise et peinture moderne. Paris: Chroniques du jour, 1936; English, Chinese Mysticism and Modern Painting. London: A. Zwemmer 1936; Les fauves: Braque, Derain, Van Dongen, Dufy, Friesz, Manguin, Marguet, Matisse, Puy, Vlaminck. Geneva: Éditions des Trois Collines, 1949, English, The Fauvist Painters. New York: Wittenborn, Schultz, 1950; Le musée inimaginable. 3 vols. Paris: J. Corti, 1956; and Reverdy, Pierre. Dernières oeuvres de Matisse, 1950-1954. Paris: Éditions de la Revue Verve, 1958, English, The Last Works of Henri Matisse. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1958; L’image et l’instant. Paris: J. Corti, 1961.


    “Georges Duthuit.” Apollo 78 (July 1963): 68-69; Bonnefoy, Yves, ed. Représentation et présence: premiers écrits et travaux, 1923-1952. Paris: Flammarion, 1974; Labrusse, Rémi. Georges Duthuit: écrits sur Matisse. Paris: Ecole nationale supérieure des beaux-arts, 1992; Spurling, Hilary. Matisse the Master. London: Hamish Hamilton, 2005, pp. 257-265, 291; Labrusse, Rémi. “Notice Biographique.” Autour de Georges Duthuit. Aix-en-Provence: Galerie d’Art du Conseil Général des Bouches-du-Rhône/Actes Sud, 2003, pp. 87-91; [obituary:] “Georges Duthuit.” L’Oeil no. 219 (October 1973): 55.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Duthuit, Georges." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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