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Alix Agret

PhD Work

Allo Paris : the seen, the scene and the ob-scene. Magazines, eroticism and a New Vision, 1931–1939

From 1931 to 1939, three monthly illustrated magazines - Paris magazine, Paris Sex Appeal and Allô Paris – were published in France, in which were juxtaposed academic studies of nudes, candid humanist photographs and pin ups with artistic overtones. Used by Picabia for his paintings and by Georges Hugnet for his collages, these magazines associated the pictures by notable artists of the time (Brassaï, Kertesz, Man Ray) and the works of less well-known photographers (J. Moral, P. Boucher, R. Schall). Forming a genre yet untapped by historians, these magazines featured both a real taste for erotic fantasies and a remarkable sophistication in composition and conception. At the crossroads of the history of photography, ideas of the body and surrealist humour, this material will allow me to study visual culture in pre-1939 France. 

This corpus of about 300 magazines and 2500 photos expresses an ambivalent status in-between popular culture and higher forms of art and discloses a fascinating panorama of the divergent photographic approaches at work on the cosmopolitan Parisian art scene during the 1930s. They reflect the hybrid creativity of heterogeneous modernist discourses, from the German New Objectivity and the Eastern European New Vision to the American straight photography.

Paris Magazine should be explored as a plastic object and also as an effective cinematographic device creating visual shocks by juxtaposing photos with no apparent connection. Nudes, landscapes and urban sceneries are linked or dissociated as the reader leafs through the magazine, the poetic flicker of its images relating to the mechanics of editing. The impurity of these optical games engages a dispersed attention, oscillating between contemplation and voyeurism, the intellectualized act of looking and the consumption of the body. Asking what this impurity tells us about the erotic and photographic mechanism of the look at work in the 1930s, I hope to dissect the unconscious of the time and its visual traces.

I thus plan to examine the notion of the Erotic and to analyse how the photographers undressed women, displaying a nudity inspired by the Academies, the cinematographic iconography and the standards of advertising. A feminist reading of these images should throw light on the conventional voyeuristic optic producing a split between the active male, bearer of the look, and the passive woman, object of desire.


  • mise en page
  • PhD


    School of Arts & Humanities


    Photography, 2015–2019

  • Alix Agret is an art historian. She holds a MA in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art where she worked on the body in 19th century European art. Visual culture, representations of the body and eroticism were also at the core of the MA in History and the MA in Film Studies she earned in France (Paris-Sorbonne University and Paris West University Nanterre la Défense). She writes articles for French art magazines (Artpress, Prussian Blue). 

  • Degrees

  • MA History of Art, The Courtauld Institute of Art, 2015; MA in Film Studies, Paris West University Nanterre La Défense, 2012; MA in History, Paris-Sorbonne University, 2011; BA English Studies, Paris-Sorbonne University, 2009; BA History, Paris-Sorbonne University, 2009
  • Experience

  • Assistant to a freelance curator, Paris, 2011–now; Internship at the Centre national du costume de scène, Moulins, 04/07/11–29/07/11; Internship at the Musée du Louvre, Paintings Department, 05/11/10–28/01/11
  • Publications

  • Henri Foucault, Hors du corps, Polaroids 2007–2015, Filigranes éditions, 2016; 'Hitchcock/Arroyo, cinéma/lithographie: retours de balle' in Les arts et le cinéma : 120 années d'échange, exhibition catalogue, Caixaforum Barcelona, 2016–2017; Articles in art magazines: Artpress, Prussian Blue