LETTER TO W. ALANSON BRYAN ON HIS NATIONALITY, 1925

JEAN CHARLOT[1]

9—25

Mr W. Alanson Bryan

Los Angeles Museum

 

Dear Sir

Having received your kind invitation to take part in the Pan American Exhibition I considered myself bound to send a picture, which simple fact aroused certain opposition from a group of colleagues who have always been hostile to me, because of my not having taken part in local art politics.  In case something of this might have come to your ears, in more or less biased[2] form, I have thought it useful to reestablish the truth. 

As a pretext for criticizing my sending a picture, they seized upon my nationality.  It is true that I am of French origin, but of a French[3] family that is one of the longest established in Mexico.  My great-grandfather Victor Goupil came to Mexico in 1820 and since then my family has always been represented here, both he and my grandfather having married Mexican women.[4]  This is not a mere geographic accident, since both of the Goupils were interested in this country to the extent of having done important archeological work.  They collected and edited Aztec manuscripts and part of their collection was formed by the Boturini manuscripts.  This Goupil collection was donated in part to the Trocadero Museum and in part to the National Library of Paris, much of it remaining in Mexico.  Facsimile editions of the most valuable manuscripts were made at their own expense. 

For my part, following this tradition, I became amalgamated to the modern Mexican Art Movement, so closely that to suppress my work would be to mutilate this movement.  This is not personal evaluation, since an article published recently in “The Arts” (Sept. 25) includes as a large part of its modern illustrations drawings and canvases of mine.[5]  I was also the first one to complete a mural fresco, the technical difficulties which found resolution in my work having been of great aid to those who came after me.  Not only in painting have I been part of this movement, for articles of mine relating to Mexico and its art have been published in French and Mexican magazines, and I am at present art editor of the Mexican Folkways.

At all events, I cannot see with what right a painter is to be classified according to the accident of his birth.  Nobody would put El Greco in the Greek school but surely in the Spanish, and the story of modern French painting would be quite incomplete without Picasso’s[6] contribution. 

You will pardon what in this explanation seems personal praise, my idea being only to rectify possible rumors with facts.

Very sincerely yours,

Jean Charlot

 



[1] This is a transcription of a draft in Notebook A, dated September 1925.  W. Alanson Bryan was director of LAMHSA, the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art, the predecessor of LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  The museum held the First Pan-American Exhibition of Oil Paintings in 1925.  The final version has not been found, and the letter might not have been sent. 

[2] Original: biassed. 

[3] Original: french. 

[4] Charlot is in error by a generation.  Victor’s father, Pierre Nicolas Goupil (July 4, 1771–February 22, 1850), from Normandy, was the first to establish a connection with Mexico in or around 1820. 

[5] Brenner, Anita, 1925.  “A Mexican Renascence.”  The Arts, Volume 8, Number 3, September, pp. 127–150.

[6] Original: Picassos.