Willa Z. Silverman to headline symposium at Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Willa Z. Silverman, Malvin E. and Lea P. Bank Professor of French and Jewish Studies at Penn State, will be the featured speaker at a symposium that explores the life and career of Henri Vever (1854-1942), a prominent French jeweler, promoter of Art Nouveau, and collector active at the turn of the 20th century.

The symposium, “Henri Vever, joaillier et collectionneur” (“Henri Vever, Jeweler and Collector”) will take place at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts) in Paris, France on Friday, May 25. Other symposium speakers include: Évelyne Possémé, chief curator of the Art Nouveau/Art Deco Department at Musée des Arts Décoratifs; Anne Distel, honorary curator of heritage at the Musée d'Orsay; Geneviève Aitken, documentary researcher for the French Ministry of Culture; and Massumeh Farhad, chief curator at the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (Freer|Sackler).

Silverman’s recent book, “Henri Vever: Champion de l'Art nouveau” (Armand Colin, 2018), is an edition of Vever’s private diary from 1898 held at the Freer|Sackler. Silverman’s interpretation focuses on Vever's career as a luxury jeweler, his private life, and his activities as a foremost collector of modern French painting and Japanese prints. The book probes myriad topics of interest to French citizens at that time, through Vever’s eyes.  These include preparations for the 1900 Paris World’s fair; the Parisian art market; the development of the bicycle, photography, the telephone, new printing techniques, and other modern technologies; and events such as the Dreyfus Affair, the Spanish-American War, and the Boer War.

Silverman’s research explores the social and cultural history of France from approximately 1870 to 1914. Her first book, “The Notorious Life of Gyp: Right-Wing Anarchist in Fin-de-Siècle France” (Oxford University Press, 1995), examined the life of the prolific popular novelist, anti-Semitic propagandist, and salonnière, and highlighted many of the social and political tensions confronting France at the end of the 19th century. In her second book, “The New Bibliopolis: French Book Collectors and the Culture of Print, 1880-1914” (University of Toronto Press, 2008), Silverman analyzes topics as diverse as the relationship between book collecting and esthetic and cultural currents such as Symbolism, dandyism and Art Nouveau; the gendered nature of book collecting; and the increased collaboration between authors and illustrators. The Modern Language Association presented Silverman with its 2009 Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for French and Francophone Studies for “The New Bibliopolis.”

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William Hessert

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College of the Liberal Arts

Last Updated May 24, 2018