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View of “The Shadow of the Avant-Garde: Rousseau and the Forgotten Masters,” 2015–16. Foreground: Works by William Edmondson. Background: Works by Alfred Wallis. Photo: Jens Nober.

“The Shadow of the Avant-Garde: Rousseau and the Forgotten Masters”

Museum Folkwang

View of “The Shadow of the Avant-Garde: Rousseau and the Forgotten Masters,” 2015–16. Foreground: Works by William Edmondson. Background: Works by Alfred Wallis. Photo: Jens Nober.

FINDING A TITLE to anchor a thematic group show is notoriously fraught, as “The Shadow of the Avant-Garde: Rousseau and the Forgotten Masters” demonstrated. German art historian Veit Loers coined the titular phrase to refer to a corpus that is the necessary complement to the art of the historical avant-gardes, the negative or occluded partner in the pairing—namely, the work of those non-Europeans, “folk,” children, and other “primitives” whom the early modernists “discovered.” The show’s subtitle indicated that the exhibition would focus on the renowned Henri Rousseau, the first and still the best loved of those in the penumbral zone, and on his lesser-known affiliates, the maîtres populaires, or “masters of popular painting,” who, in the wake of Le Douanier’s recognition at the beginning of the twentieth century, were drawn into the limelight in the 1920s and ’30s. While

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