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Call for Papers: Charlie Chaplin in the Eye of the Avant-Garde

Call for papers - Conference
Charlie Chaplin in the Eye of the Avant-Garde
Nantes, December 5th and 6th, 2019
Musée d’arts de Nantes
Institut ACTE (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)

Venue: Auditorium, Musée d’arts de Nantes
Conference Directors: Claire Lebossé, José Moure
Advisory Board: Martin Barnier (Université Lyon 2), Francis Bordat (Université Paris-Nanterre), Élodie Evezard (Musée d’Art de Nantes), Kate Guyonvarch (Chaplin office, and Roy Export SAS), Morgane Jourdren (Université Angers), Claire Lebossé (Musée d’arts de Nantes), Sophie Lévy (Musée d’arts de Nantes), José Moure (Université Paris 1)

From 18 October 2019 to 3 February 2020, the Musée d’arts de Nantes is organising an exhibition entitled Charlie Chaplin in the Eye of the Avant-Garde highlighting for the first time the connections between the cinematic work of Charlie Chaplin and avant-garde experiments in the visual arts. As the first international star in the history of cinema, Charlie Chaplin has exerted a powerful fascination ever since the invention of his Tramp persona in 1914. However, the interaction between the work of Chaplin and the artistic output of his contemporaries remains unexplored. Charlie Chaplin in the Eye of the Avant-Garde, which brings together many different art forms (paintings, photographs, drawings, sculptures, documents and, of course, flm), offers an immersion in the visual world of the first half of the 20th century, with works by Frantisek Kupka, Marc Chagall, Fernand Léger, Man Ray, Meret Oppenheim, John Heartfeld, and Claude Cahun…

The conference will be based on the same four axes as the exhibition:

Machine Man
The geometrical way that Chaplin’s tramp moves, with his jumpy walk and his famous 90 degree turn, inspired Fernand Leger in his development of a cubist Chaplin. It also evokes machine movements which Chaplin either mimes (c.f. his transformation into a clockwork statue to escape capture in The Circus) or becomes part of (when Charlie is swallowed by the conveyor belt and ends up trapped the cogs, in Modern Times.) Contemporary admirers of Chaplin such as Frantisek Kupka and Francis Picabia were similarly preoccupied by a fascination for machine movements and the art of engineering heralding a new world order.

The poetry of the world
The freedom of the Tramp is exemplified in his refusal to consider the world as a constraint to which he must submit: demonstrated in his reinterpretation of objects. Objects are diverted from their intended functions and lose all practicality, such as the scene in The Pawnshop when Chaplin takes the alarm clock apart and ends up completely destroying it. Objects undergo poetic transformation in the hands of an inventive hero trying to make the world fit his needs (the bread roll dance in The Gold Rush, 1925) in the same way as in the works of Victor Brauner et François Kollar. The counter-uses of objects proposed by Chaplin can be seen as deviations of meaning based on semantic ambiguities, establishing close, formal links with the work of Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray.

Spectacle « mis en abyme » The travelling world of performers is a privileged universe for the tramp character, himself a wanderer, on the outskirts of society (The Circus, 1928 ; Limelight, 1952). Chaplin loved the microcosm of the circus, as did Fernand Léger, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall or Alexander Calder. There, reality is transformed, reflected by deforming mirrors- mockery and doubt question the ordinary. The clown and the tightrope walker are often used as metaphorical representations of artists, deliberately putting themselves in danger for the audience or on the high wire. In his work Chaplin equally explores the joyous burlesque of the tramp and the melancholy of the ageing white clown (Limelight) This exploration of the artist figure is to be accompanied by a reflection on the film industry in which he evolved.

The absurdity of history
The success of the tramp character places an emblematic and displaced character at the centre of Chaplin’s film work. The poverty of one category of the population is forced upon the eyes of the viewers, and in particular upon the eyes of the cameras of Lewis Hine, Walker Evans and Berenice Abbott. The theme is all the closer to Chaplin in that he experienced extreme poverty in his childhood (The Kid, 1921). His work also expresses clear antimilitarism, from Shoulder Arms (1918, echoing the work of artists who experienced the trenches during the First World War and often attended screenings of Chaplin films when on leave) to The Great Dictator (1940), ridiculing Hitler and Mussolini through infantilization and derision, similar to photomontages by John Heartfeld, himself a Chaplin admirer.

Please send an abstract (1000 to 2000 characters) in English or French, a short curriculum vitae, a bibliography of maximum 5 lines, and your contact information to:
José Moure ( and
Claire Lebossé (

Deadline for submissions (extended): May 22nd 2019
Answers will be given in June.

New Double CD: Charlie Chaplin Film Music Anthology

To celebrate the 130th anniversary of Chaplin’s birth, we are excited to announce our collaboration with [PIAS] on a new double CD set of extracts from the film soundtracks in the Chaplin archives, out on April 12th 2019.

The Charlie Chaplin Film Music Anthology, compiled by the Chaplin Office, retraces many of the milestones in Chaplin’s music-composing career, from City Lights (1931), the first film he released with a score of his own creation, to the 1976 re-release of A Woman of Paris with a new score composed by Chaplin at the age of 86, not to mention extracts from Modern Times, The Great Dictator, Limelight, The Kid and more. The release includes a well-documented 20-page booklet that we scrupulously put together, illustrated with archival photographs.

Unfortunately, the record label mixed up the metadata on three of the tracks, and therefore the Pay Day and A Day’s Pleasure tracks on Disc 2 are in a different order than the one listed. The music you hear on track 63 is “Boat Ride” from A Day’s Pleasure, the music you hear on track 64 is “Jazz” from A Day’s Pleasure, and the music you hear on track 65 is “Sweet Adeline Waltz” from Pay Day. The label has corrected this for future editions, and has even suggested that due to the small mix-up, the first run of the CDs could become a collector’s item. Time will tell…

Vinyls and a limited edition box set of soundtracks with a few surprises will follow during the year.

Celebrate 130 Years of Charlie Chaplin

2019 marks the 130th anniversary of Charlie Chaplin’s birth. For the occasion, several events and activities around the world, licensed by the Chaplin office, will pay tribute to him throughout the course of the year. There will be fantastic events at Chaplin’s World, film screenings with with orchestras performing Chaplin’s scores live to picture, new exhibitions in France, a new ballet in Bratislava, the release of new music albums, and much more!

The full programme of events, which we’ll update throughout the year, is available here.

Snap Galleries Launch

To celebrate the 130th anniversary of Charlie Chaplin’s birth, each month this year, our licensee Snap Galleries will be releasing a carefully curated collection of images from our archives.

Collectors of fine art photography will be able to purchase authorised museum-quality limited-edition Charlie Chaplin photographs, produced by hand in the darkroom by a master printer on traditional heavyweight silver gelatin paper in a range of sizes.

They launched the first set of photographs from THE KID on 16th January. Visit the Snap Galleries website for details.