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Chronology of his life
(English version of a text which first appeared in C. Briend et al: Le Cubisme en majesté, Albert Gleizes, exhibition catalogue, Musée Picasso, Barcélone; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, 2001)
Albert Léon Gleizes is born in December. His father, Sylvain Gleizes, runs a large industrial design workshop in the rue d'Uzès in Paris, near the Bld Montmartre. He produces patterns for furnishing fabrics. The child is named 'Léon' after a maternal uncle, Léon Comerre, a successful portrait painter, winner of the Grand Prix de Rome in 1875. Gleizes later says of him that he was the favourite pupil of Cabanel, who was the favourite pupil of Ingres. Gleizes' parents live in the rue de l'Echiquier near the workshop, but move to Neuilly, near the Porte Maillot and the Bois de Boulogne. An elder brother dies in infancy but he will have two younger sisters, Suzanne and Mireille. (1)
The family move to the Avenue Gambetta, in Courbevoie, where Gleizes' grandparents had lived. Courbevoie is then a largely rural suburb of Paris, not far from the Grande Jatte, made famous through the paintings of Seurat.
Gleizes enters as a day student in a school in the rue Chaptal in Paris. He turns against it in his second year, especially the science classes. He takes to writing poetry and playing truant as often as possible in the nearby Montmartre cemetery.
'At the age of 18' he enters his father's workshop as an apprentice. This is the condition on which his father allows him to train for his real ambition which is to become an actor. His work with his father is the only formal artistic training he will receive, apart from lessons at school and perhaps some evening classes in the conservatory. In his father's workshop he joins a childhood friend, the poet, René Arcos (1881-1966).
He begins his military service in Abbeville. It is here, according to his own account, that he starts painting seriously, mainly landscapes in a subdued Impressionist style. A painting by him , La Seine à Asnières, is accepted by the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts.
He is transferred to Amiens where he meets the painters Berthold Mahn, Jacques d'Otémar and Josué Gaboriaud, as well as the printer, Lucien Linard. Linard will run the printing workshop in the Abbaye de Créteil. At the same time, through Jean Valmy Baysse, an art critic who was a friend of the Gleizes family, René Arcos is invited to collaborate on a new journal, La Vie, together with Alexandre Mercereau (b.1884), Charles Vildrac (d.1971) and Georges Duhamel (1884-1966).
Gleizes terminates his military service in the Autumn, leaving the army as a determined opponent of militarism. The group of his writer friends is joined by Henri Martin Barzun. Gleizes is instrumental in forming the Association Ernest Renan, launched in December at the Théatre Pigalle. The aim is to counter the influence of militarist propaganda by providing the elements of a popular and secular culture. Gleizes is responsible for the 'Literary and Artistic section' which organises street theatre and poetry readings.
Gleizes' time is largely taken up with painting, with the activities of the Association Ernest Renan, and with his continued work with his father. Alexandre Mercereau goes to Russia to act as the French representative on a Russian art journal, Le Toison d'Or. In October, Barzun becomes an employee in the new Ministère du Travail established under the Clemenceau government by the Socialist minister, René Viviani. Gleizes spends the Summer with relatives in Picardy and Gascony. He later records that he was very impressed by the Romanesque church of St Pierre at Moissac, but not yet in a position to appreciate its real importance.
Throughout the year Gleizes and his friends pursue an idea proposed by Charles Vildrac for the establishment of a self supporting community of artists which would enable them to develop their art free of commercial considerations. A suitable house and grounds is found in Créteil, at the time a small village outside Paris and the rent for the first six months is provided by Barzun on the basis of a small inheritance. Gleizes and Vildrac move in in December. Gleizes maintains that for the period of the Abbaye's existence the social concerns of the Association Ernest Renan were forgotten. (2)
The year of the Abbaye de Créteil. The group consists in the first instance of Gleizes, Arcos and Vildrac with his wife Rose, sister of Duhamel. Duhamel himself, like Barzun, only appears intermittently since he is studying to become a doctor. The group is joined by the musician, Albert Doyen, later to make a name for himself as founder of the Fêtes du Peuple organised in the 1920s under the aegis of the French Communist Party. Alexandre Mercereau arrives in Spring, with a Russian wife who speaks no French.
The group supports itself through fine quality printing, organised by Gleizes' old friend from the army, Lucien Linard. Apart from Linard the main contributor to the printing work seems to be Gleizes himself. Occasional visitors include the painters Berthold Mahn, Jacques d'Otémar and Henri Doucet.
The poets of the Abbaye, particularly Arcos, Duhamel and Barzun, develop a distinctive epic style, dealing in free verse with very large subjects under the influence of Walt Whitman, Emil Verhaeren and, especially, the French epic symbolist poet, René Ghil (1862-1925). The term 'epic symbolist' seems appropriate since although Ghil developed his basic ideas on poetic language in close relation with Mallarmé, he broke with what he saw as Mallarmé's excessively private and intimate vision. Ghil held open evenings every Friday and these are attended by the members of the Abbaye, probably including Gleizes who was later to acknowledge Ghil as "he who possesses the laws and can reveal them to those who are worthy of initiation" ( celui qui possède les lois et peut les révéler à ceux dignes de l'initiation (3)).
The Abbaye published books by a wide variety of authors including Robert de Montesqiou, model for the Duc de Charlus in Proust's A la recherche de temps perdu and the Polish anarchist and art theorist Mecislas Goldberg (1868-1907), but the best known and most influential book they published was the collection of poems La Vie Unanime, by Jules Romains (1885-1972).
Romains had been a friend of the Abbaye poets and might have joined them except that he had been admitted to follow a course in the Ecole Normale Supérieur. La Vie Unanime was the result of a vision he had had in 1903 in which he had seen all the phenomena of daily life as intimately related like the different parts of a single huge beast. This vision informs all his writing including the monumental 27 part novel, Les Hommes de Bonne Volonté, which draws a panoramic picture of French life at all social levels in the first thirty years of the twentieth century. On the strength of its association with Romains the Abbaye de Créteil is often described as 'Unanimist'.
At the urging in particular of Gleizes and Mercereau, the Abbaye during the Summer organised a great open day, with poetry readings, music and exhibitions. Participants included the Italian Symbolist poet, soon to be the theorist of Futurism, F.T.Marinetti (1876-1944), and the Romanian sculptor, Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957).
Despite the epic ambitions of some of his friends, Gleizes' own painting in this period remains modest, though there is a shift away from Impressionism towards a more fluid, linear style. There are relatively few works from this period and it may be assumed that, despite the hope that the Abbaye would free its members to pursue their art, much of his time was taken up with the work of the printing shop.
The Abbaye closed in January owing to a simple inability to pay the rent. The furniture removers arrived on the day an article appealing for public support appeared on the front page of the Figaro, written by Robert de Montesqiou. Gleizes, initially reluctant to move back to his father's house in Courbevoie after this failure, moved into an informal artists' community in the rue du Delta in Paris, with his friend, the painter and poet, Henri Doucet.
The year was nonetheless very rich in painting and perhaps marks the beginning of the line of research that would lead him to Cubism. The development of a linear style continues, more in the line of the 'synthetists' (followers of Gauguin) than of the Impressionists, though his subject matter is always taken from an unsentimental observation of the world about him. He has a marked preference for urban and semi-urban scenes with an emphasis on human labour. Although he often uses bright and striking colours there is little or no evidence of any interest in either Fauvism or Divisionism, the two schools which dominate the Parisian avant garde. In particular there is an important series of paintings done in Bagnères sur Bigorre in the Pyrenees where he spent the Summer with a relative.
The members of the Abbaye continue to work together and indeed it is in 1908 that some of their most important books, including Romains' La Vie Unanime actually appear. The names of Abbaye members and their associates are often seen together in the various literary journals that are published over the next few years, forming a steadily expanding and influential network generally favouring a realistic and socially conscious style of poetry and, increasingly, prose.
Gleizes' evolution towards a more linear, less 'Impressionist' style continues with greater emphasis on clear, simplified, construction. Again there is an important series from a Summer spent in Bagnères sur Bigorre. At the exhibition of the Salon d'Automne which opens in October Gleizes is impressed by the work of Henri Le Fauconnier (1881-1946), especially his portrait of the poet, P.J.Jouve. Le Fauconnier's portraits and his landscapes done in Britanny show a desire for a simplified form that is very similar to the that of Gleizes. The two painters meet through the intermediary of the very well connected Alexandre Mercereau.
Gleizes for the first time exhibits in the Salon des Indépendants. He shows his Portrait de René Arcos and L'Arbre, two paintings in which the emphasis on simplified form is beginning to overwhelm the representational interest of the painting. The same tendency is evident in a Portrait of Apollinaire by Jean Metzinger (1883-1956) in the same Salon. Mercereau introduces Gleizes to Metzinger but it seems that it is only after the Salon d'Automne that they become seriously interested in each other's work.
In a review of the Salon, the poet Roger Allard (1885-1961) announces the appearance of a new school of French painters concentrating their attention on form rather than on colour. Allard was an associate of the Abbaye and had written a book of poems, Le Bocage Amoureuse, which was being illustrated at the time by Gleizes (it would be published in 1911). Apollinaire (1880 1918), albeit in the rather obscure Futurist journal, Poesia, published in Italy, roundly disagrees with Allard and particularly attacks Metzinger for exhibiting what he regards as a poor imitation of the contemporary work of Picasso (4). Metzinger explains his intentions, and his relations with Picasso, in a 'Note sur la Peinture', published in Pan, one of the series of shortlived journals produced by the Abbaye circle. Gleizes dates the beginning of his relations with Metzinger from this article, which impressed him greatly.
A group is beginning to form which includes Gleizes, Metzinger, Robert Delaunay (1885-1941), a longstanding friend and associate of Metzinger's, and Fernand Léger (1881-1955). For a while they meet regularly at Henri le Fauconnier's studio in the rue Notre-Dame des Champs, near the Bld de Montparnasse (5), where he is working on his ambitious allegorical painting, L'Abondance. In this painting the simplification of the representational form gives way to a new complexity in which foreground and background are united and the subject of the painting obscured by a network of interlocking geometrical elements.
The group meeting in Le Fauconnier's studio, together with other young painters who also want to emphasise a research into form in opposition to the Divisionist, or Neo-Impressionist, emphasis on colour, take over the hanging committee of the Salon des Indépendants and arrange the exhibition according to tendency, ensuring that the work of painters with similar ambitions be shown together. Gleizes, Metzinger, Le Fauconnier, Delaunay, Léger and Marie Laurencin (1885 1957) are shown together in Room 41. Laurencin is included at the suggestion of Apollinaire who has become an enthusiastic supporter of the new group despite his earlier reservations. The result is a major scandal. Even though, as Gleizes later points out, the pictures shown are still conventional representations, still observing the rules of perspective, the public is outraged by the apparent obscurity of the subject matter, and the predominance of the elementary geometrical shapes, which give rise to the name, as a term of abuse, 'Cubism'. Although this and similar terms have been used before in artistic circles, this is the first time its use becomes widespread (6).
The term is accepted in June as the name of the new school by Apollinaire, speaking in the context of an exhibition in Brussels which includes works by Gleizes, Delaunay, Léger, Le Fauconnier and Dunoyer de Segonzac (1884-1974).
Over the Summer, Gleizes, still living in his parents' house in Courbevoie, is in close contact with Metzinger, who has recently moved to Meudon. Gleizes' visits to Metzinger are recorded in his painting Paysage, Meudon. The two have long conversations about the nature of form and perception. Both are discontent with the conventional perspective mechanism which, they feel, give only a partial idea of the real form of the subject as it is experienced in life, seen in movement and from many different angles.
A new Cubist scandal is produced in the Salon d'Automne where Gleizes shows his Portrait de Jacques Nayral and La Chasse. At about the time of this exhibition, Gleizes, through the intermediary of Apollinaire, meets Picasso and sees the work of Picasso and Braque for the first time. He gives his reaction in an essay published in another shortlived Abbaye dominated literary magazine, La Revue Indépendante. He considers that Picasso and Braque, despite the great value of their work, are engaged in an 'Impressionism of Form', which is to say that they give an appearance of formal construction which does not rest on any clearly comprehensible principle. (7)
Through the Salon d'Automne, Gleizes also enters into relations with the Duchamp brothers, Jacques Villon (1875-1963), Raymond Duchamp-Villon (1876-1918) and Marcel Duchamp (1887 1968). The studios of Jacques Villon and Raymond Duchamp-Villon at 7, rue Lemaître, become, together with Gleizes' studio at Courbevoie, a regular meeting place for the Cubist group. It shares a garden with the studio of Frantisek Kupka (1871-1957), the Czech painter who is developing a purely non-representational style of painting based on the progressive abstraction of a subject in motion.
The exhibition of the Italian Futurists in Paris in February gives rise to friendly but heated debates between the Futurists and the French Cubists. They turn largely on the question of 'dynamism', of whether or not painting can reflect the movement of real life. The role of time and movement in painting will become a major pre-occupation of Gleizes' throughout his whole career. The Cubists are strongly critical of the Futurist attempt to convey time by showing the successive stages passed through by a body in motion. This is probably why Gleizes, Villon and Duchamp Villon ask Marcel Duchamp not to show his Nu descendant un escalier at the Salon des Indépendants. Coming so soon after the Italian exhibition this picture from the French Cubist camp incorporating the successive stages of the nude's descent would have looked like a victory for the Italians. It is shown without problems in subsequent exhibitions of the group, for example in the Cubist exhibition organised soon afterwards by Jacques Nayral (d.1914) in the Galerie Dalmau in Barcelona (8).
To the Futurist emphasis on successive movement, the Cubists oppose the idea of 'simultaneity', which also becomes a subject of controversy among the poets Gleizes' old friend from the Abbaye de Créteil, H.M.Barzun, Apollinaire, and Blaise Cendrars (1887-1961), who had arrived in Paris early in the year. The word is especially associated with Robert Delaunay, but Delaunay dissociates himself from the Cubists in a letter published in the journal Gil Blas in September. He objects to what he sees as their excessively analytical, intellectual approach.
The Cubist contribution to the Salon d'Automne in 1912 leads to questions being asked in the Municipal Council of Paris and to a debate in the Chambre des Députés about the use of public funds to provide the venue where such a barbaric art can be shown. The Cubists are defended by the Socialist deputy, Marcel Sembat (9). Gleizes and Metzinger publish a major defence of Cubism, Du "Cubisme", in preparation for the Salon de la Section d'Or, held in October as an attempt to bring together all the progressive tendencies. Du "Cubisme' is published by Eugène Figuière who is closely associated with Gleizes' friends Nayral and Mercereau (10). The book quickly runs through several editions and is translated into several European languages including Russian and English.
It is at the Salon de la Section d'Or that Apollinaire announces the appearance of a new painting, a return to lyricism and colour, which he calls 'Orphism' and identifies largely with Delaunay, Kupka and Francis Picabia (1879-1953). Gleizes shows his most ambitious painting so far, the monumental Dépiquage des Moissons.
Gleizes exhibits in February in the great 'Armory Show' in New York, which introduces the new painting to an American audience. An essay by him, Le Cubisme et la Tradition, attacking the Italian Renaissance and its influence on French art, is published by the Italian born Riccardo Canudo (1877-1923) in his journal, Montjoie!. Figuière publishes a collection of essays by Apollinaire, Méditations esthétiques Les Peintres Cubistes. He uses the word 'la majesté' to characterise Gleizes (11). In the Salon d'Automne Gleizes shows La Ville et le Fleuve, a monumental successor to the Dépiquage des Moissons (it has since been lost). At the Salon, Canudo introduces him to Juliette Roche (1884-1982), daughter of a powerful government minister, Jules Roche, and a member of the circle which is portrayed in Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu (12).
In the Spring, Juliette Roche introduces Gleizes to her childhood friend, Jean Cocteau (1889 1963), her father's godson. The two quickly become friends. When the war breaks out in the Autumn, Gleizes is sent to the large army garrison at Toul where he is put in charge of organising entertainments for the troops, drawing on his experience of the Association Ernest Renan. He has at his disposal an impressive group of artists and musicians who include the harpist and composer, Carlos Salzedo (1885-1961), the composer Florent Schmitt (1870-1958) and the painters George Valmier (1885-1937) and Paul Colin (1892-1986), who would become well known as a poster designer in the 1920s. Very early in the war his two brothers in law, Captain Alphand and his close friend Jacques Nayral are killed. He is contacted by Jean Cocteau with a proposal for a production of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, in which the roles of Bottom, Quince, Snug etc would be taken by the clowns of the Cirque Medrano. Cocteau invites Gleizes to design the set and costumes. Possibly through his contact with Cocteau, Gleizes' style has become much lighter and more colourful. For the next few years a number of themes drawn from the life of the circus will feature prominently in his work.
Gleizes becomes increasingly decided in his opposition to the continuing war, believing that peace could have been secured once the German offensive had been halted at the Marne. His pacifism brings him closer to Juliette Roche who is using her influence to extract him and a number of other artists, including the composer, Edgard Varèse (1885-1965), out of the war.
Although he prepares many sketches and gouaches which he will later develop into more important works, his only major oil painting from this period is the Portrait d'un médecin militaire, commissioned by his superior, Dr Lambert, the doctor in charge of the military hospital at Toul, who, however, finds the result rather disconcerting. Gleizes contributes an article to Cocteau's patriotic paper, Le Mot in which he attacks those critics who have accused the new tendencies in art of being unpatriotic (13). The last issue of the paper includes a study by him based on the return of wounded soldiers from the battle at Bois le Prêtre.
He is demobilised in the Autumn and marries Juliette Roche. The two leave almost immediately for New York. He is met by Carlos Salzedo and by Marcel Duchamp who had gone to New York in the early Summer after he had been judged physically unfit for military service. Salzedo immediately takes him to a club in Harlem and the impact of the Jazz music and of the skyscrapers of New York have an enormous and disorientating effect. Once again they pose the problem, raised by the Futurists, of movement in painting, of the need to convey the vigour and dynamism of modern life.
Together with his wife he is quickly involved with political circles and gives a talk in November in which he attacks anti-German atrocity propaganda and argues against America's entry into the war (14).
Gleizes is soon disillusioned by New York, feeling a great sense of emptiness and pointlessness beneath all the surface agitation. He continues to like the American painters on a personal level, particularly Max Weber, Man Ray and Joseph Stella, but is depressed by the increasing influence of what he sees as the over-intellectual researches of Duchamp. This is the period when Duchamp is engaged, with relation to his Mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même in an intense research into mathematics, and is also launching the idea of the 'objet trouvé', the 'Ready Made'. In April Gleizes exhibits in the Montross Gallery with Metzinger (who has sent his work from France), Duchamp, and Jean Crotti (1878-1958), Duchamp's brother in law. They are nicknamed 'The Four Musketeers'.
In May, the Gleizes go to Barcelona. They are joined in June by Francis Picabia and his wife, Gabrielle Buffet Picabia, together with Marie Laurencin. They spend the Summer together in the resort of Tossa del Mar. Gleizes continues his attempt to incorporate movement into his painting, and his interest in popular entertainers, with a series of Spanish dancers. He holds his first one man-show in the Galerie Dalmau in December.
He writes an important letter to Henri-Martin Barzun in which he attacks the aestheticism of the Parisian Cubists, who are developing a highly structured art based on a minimalist Still Life subject matter. Gleizes proclaims the need to develop a large view of the world to reflect the multitude of experiences that are offered by a world of rapid change both in space and time (15). The Gleizes leave to return to New York in December.
It is during this period, in New York and Barcelona, that Gleizes seems to have started writing at length, unless we assume, since very few documents of any sort have survived from before 1915, that earlier manuscripts have been lost. The New York/Barcelona writings consist mainly of poetic sketches both in verse and in prose, but they also include L'Art dans l'Evolution Générale, a major attempt to relate the recent developments in painting to those in all the other arts. It is probably his first book, and it is one of his longest, of comparable length to La Forme et l'Histoire (1931). It is dated January 1917 and we may assume that much of it was written during the long sea journeys Gleizes undertook at this time, from New York to Barcelona, passing through the Azores, and, on the return journey, at Picabia's suggestion, through Cuba.
The Gleizes arrive back in New York early in 1917 but leave again very soon afterwards for Bermuda, where Gleizes paints a number of landscapes in which he seems to be reverting to his earliest Cubist style. Otherwise, the general development of his painting is highly ambitious, in line with the letter to Barzun. The dynamic subject matter city, port, dancers, music-hall performers is often incorporated into a highly organised semi-geometrical grid which prefigures the major developments of the 1920s. After his return to New York, Gleizes sees a great deal of Picabia and Duchamp, sharing a house with Picabia and Edgard Varèse during the Summer. In June, Picabia's journal, 391, publishes an article by him, La Peinture Moderne, in which he argues for the existence of two distinct and independent schools of Cubism the Salon Cubists on the one hand and Picasso and Braque on the other.
Despite the large scale ambition and apparent self confidence of Gleizes' painting in 19167, 1918 is, at least apparently, a fallow year. Gleizes paints and writes little. At some point, while he is staying at Pelham, a semi-rural suburb of New York, he becomes convinced of the existence of God. He later describes this as a 'consequence of emotions and of reason at the end of its tether' ('conséquence d'émotions et de raison qui touche à sa limite'). His anguish may be related to his friendship with Picabia and Duchamp, both of whom had concluded in their own different ways that the production of works of art was not a worthwhile activity (17). Gleizes' religious conversion reflects his conviction that the line of research begun by the Cubists was a spiritual research which could, ultimately, only be justified by faith in a higher, transcendental consciousness. While the 'revelation of Pelham' was a turning point in his life it is foreshadowed in some of the arguments used in L'Art dans l'Evolution Générale.
The Gleizes return to Paris in April, moving into an apartment owned by Juliette Roche Gleizes, 15, Bld Lannes, near the Bois de Boulogne. They find the Cubist world dominated by the great gallery owner Léonce Rosenberg (1879-1947), who has bought massively during the war, enabling many of the painters, notably Juan Gris, to continue painting. He is now showing a series of one man shows of the major Cubists. Gleizes initially sets himself against Rosenberg's influence, proposing the establishment of an Artists' Union to give artists control over the sale and promotion of their work (the details of the proposal are in L'Art dans l'évolution générale). Nonetheless, he is very impressed by the work that has been done in Paris in his absence, especially that of Metzinger and Juan Gris. Metzinger on the other hand is highly critical of Gleizes' wartime work. When Gleizes starts painting again, he maintains a recognisably New York orientated subject matter (man in the midst of skyscrapers) but employs a much more austere and disciplined style. The paintings are constructed as a series of juxtaposed planes, each with its own clearly defined uniform colour, respecting the essential flatness of the picture surface. His researches complement those of Jacques Villon, who offers him the use of the studio of his brother, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, the sculptor, killed during the war. Subsequently Gleizes would have studios closer to his apartment, in the rue Gally, Neuilly and, later, in the rue du Ranelagh (18).
Gleizes becomes increasingly involved with the radical pacifist group round the journal Clarté, edited by Henri Barbusse (1873-1935), author of the successful anti-war novel, Le Feu. He becomes particularly friendly with Paul Vaillant-Couturier (1892-1937) and Raymond Lefebvre (d.1920), leaders of the pro-Bolshevik faction of the French Socialist party, the SFIO, which, in the following year, will form the French Communist Party. At the same time, he is part of a group called Les Veilleurs, which meets in the rooms of an anthropological museum, the Musée Balzac, to discuss religious and philosophical questions. The group includes the Polish poet, O.V.deL. Milosz (1877 1939), who could be said to be continuing the poetic tradition traced by René Ghil but in a more overtly religious direction. He is also in contact with the Jesuit priest, Teilhard de Chardin (1881 1955) (19).
In February, an attempt to revive the Salon de la Section d'Or as a forum for the avant garde artists results in a lively polemic with the dadaists in which Gleizes' seriousness and his Socialist and religious preoccupations are ridiculed by his old friend Picabia and by the poet, Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes (1884-1974) (20). Gleizes also breaks contact with Jean Cocteau, who has become a powerful figure in post war artistic circles, partly through his friendship with Picasso, and who has, since 1917, been arguing for an alliance between the avant garde artists and aristocratic or high bourgeois patrons.
Gleizes lays out his overall views on the social function of art in a series of articles in Clarté under the title 'Vers une époque de bâtisseurs'. The religious orientation of his thinking prompts a number of protests, but he is defended by Vaillant-Couturier. He publishes his views on the technique of painting in Du Cubisme et les moyens de le comprendre, arguing that Cubism had been a search for a precise scientific method to replace the old scientific method of single point perspective, and that the essential elements of this new method are now known.
Gleizes publishes a series of article in different journals arguing for precise principles in painting. He has a one-man-show in a gallery run by Jacques Povolozky, who published Du Cubisme et les moyens de le comprendre. The contact with Povolozky seems to have been made, like the earlier contact with Eugène Figuière, publisher of Du "Cubisme", through Gleizes' old friend from the Abbaye de Créteil, Alexandre Mercereau. A number of writers associated with L'Abbaye are also involved with Clarté. Gleizes is a frequent contributor to La Vie des Lettres et des Arts, also associated with Povolozky and edited by the poet Nicholas Beauduin (d.1960) who belongs to the same school of epic-scale poetry as Ghil and Milosz.
At the end of the year, Gleizes is visited by two Irish painters, pupils of André Lhote (1885 1962), Evie Hone (1895-1955) and Mainie Jellett (1997-1944), who ask to study with him. They have probably been inspired by his exhibition at Povolozky's gallery and by Du Cubisme et les moyens de le comprendre. They are soon joined by the Polish painter, living in Paris, Victor Poznansky (d.1935) and by Colette Dumouchel-Nel, sister-in-law of Gleizes' friend Dr René Allendy (1889-1942), one of the French pioneers of psycho-analysis. As Allendy's wife, Colette Allendy would later become director of a gallery that was very influential in Paris after the Second World War (21).
His relations with his pupils oblige Gleizes to develop the principles he has been advocating in a much more rigorous and precise manner. Over the Summer, as we know from letters written by Evie Hone to Mainie Jellett, he is working on his book, La Peinture et ses Lois. The argument is based on the assertion that "to paint is to give life to a flat surface; to give life to a flat surface is to turn its space into rhythm" ("peindre c'est animer une surface plane; animer une surface plane, c'est en rhythmer l'espace" (22)). This poses the essential task of reconciling immobile space (the 'flat surface' surface plane) with the mobility of time ('rhythm' rythme).
Gleizes uses the terms 'translation' and 'rotation' to distinguish these two essential and inseparable aspects of the painter's act. He argues that everything in the painting must derive logically from the main characteristics of the space it occupies, the dimensions of height and breadth.
Most of the book, however, is taken up with an essay on history in which Gleizes distinguishes between ages that are obsessed with space at the expense of time, and ages that are more orientated towards time and rhythm. He sees the latter as essentially religious and argues that the Cubist and Futurist interest in time and rhythm at the expense of the static representation of external appearances indicates that a new religious age is in the process of being prepared.
Dissatisfied with the lack of complexity in his own work and in that of his pupils, Gleizes proposes that several different 'elements', each devised according to the principles outlined in La Peinture et ses Lois, could be presented simultaneously, with the eye free to roam from one to the other.
Gleizes' father in law, Jules Roche, dies, leaving his daughter several properties throughout France and a substantial portfolio of shares. Gleizes increasingly spends his time in the Roche family house in Serrières, in the Rhone Valley, where there is an extensive theological library which had belonged to Jules Roche's uncle, Bishop of Gap in the nineteenth century.
An exhibition by Mainie Jellett in Dublin is the first exhibition of wholly non-representational painting in the British Isles. While much criticised in the Dublin press it excites a great deal of interest.
In August Gleizes is contacted by a young painter, Robert Pouyaud (1901-1970), asking to become his pupil.
Gleizes is invited by the Bauhaus to write a book on Cubism as part of a series which also includes Kandinsky's Point and Line to Plane; Paul Klee's Pedagogical Notebooks , and Kasimir Malevich's The Non-Objective World. The principles of Cubism are unexpectedly endorsed by the great Exposition des Arts Décoratifs held in Paris. The critics hostile to Cubism argue that with the emergence of 'Art Deco' Cubism has found its natural role as a purely decorative art. Gleizes, like Robert Delaunay, takes this as a compliment arguing that the adaptation of a superficial Cubist aesthetic for such purposes as commercial poster design shows the strength of Cubism as a mural art (23).
Gleizes' pupil, Victor Poznansky (d.1935 (24)), scion of a wealthy Polish banking family, organises and finances L'Art d'Aujourd'hui, the first attempt in postwar Paris to present a comprehensive picture of avant garde, especially non-representational, painting throughout the world. The exhibition opens in December and brings about a brief rapprochement between Gleizes and Léger, both of whom appear as masters with disciples.
At about the same time, Gleizes, possibly reflecting on the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs and on the machine orientated aesthetic of the Bauhaus and other schools represented in L'Art d'Aujourd'hui, is writing a book, La Machine Modernolatrie, reflecting on the good and bad uses of large scale industrial production. His essay, L'Inquiétude Crise Plastique, has already suggested that the anguish which is widely felt to underlie the 'roaring twenties' is a consequence of the fact that we are surrounded by objects that, for reasons that are to do with their form, grate on our sensibility (25).
Gleizes finishes writing La Machine Modernolatrie in January and quickly concludes that he cannot publish it because, where it attempted to distinguish good and bad uses of machine production he can no longer see any good uses.
He enters into close relations with Charles Henry (1859-1926), the 'psycho-physicist' whose theory on colours and forms had had a great influence on the NeoImpressionists, Seurat and Signac. Gleizes had already known Henry for some time and his influence is already present in La Peinture et ses Lois but it is particularly marked in Cubisme: vers un essai de généralisation which Gleizes had written for his Bauhaus book and which is serialised through 1926 in Léonce Rosenberg's Bulletin de l'Effort Moderne. Gleizes develops a language in accordance with Henry's conviction that all physical phenomena are best understood as essentially vibratory in nature. A similar argument denying the existence of something corresponding to the common idea of 'solid matter' is developed in Louis de Broglie's La Matière et la Lumière, published in 1925.
Henry proposes to write a preface for a new edition of La Peinture et ses Lois but dies before the project can be realised. The year also sees the death of Gleizes' father. Late in the year, Gleizes is involved in an automobile accident and obliged to spend two weeks in hospital. The Gleizes have decided to liquidate Jules Roche's portfolio of shares in order to buy land in accordance with their longstanding anti-capitalist and increasing anti-industrialist convictions. In hospital, Gleizes hears about a large estate, Les Méjades and Archaimbaud, which has come on the market near St Rémy de Provence. The estate, which they buy, formerly belonged to the 'prophet', Nostradamus.
In March, Gleizes gives a talk, Peinture et Perspective Descriptive, to the 'Unions Intellectuelles', founded by Prince Charles de Rohan as an attempt to bring together intellectuals throughout Europe to create a common culture in hopes of forestalling a future European war. The Unions Intellectuelles hold annual conferences in different towns throughout Europe and Gleizes becomes a keen participant. He is also active on the committee of the Unions Intellectuelles Françaises, together with the Archbishop of Paris and the Gleizes' friend, the "ultra-red" ("rougissime" Mme Gleizes' phrase) physicist, Paul Langevin (1872-1946).
In the Summer, Pouyaud writes to Gleizes saying he shares his views on the need to escape the town and the inhuman environment of machine production and asking if Gleizes can help him move to the country. Gleizes finds and rents a large house called 'Moly Sabata' in Sablons, a village facing Serrières on the other side of the Rhone. Pouyaud and his wife, Cécile, move in at the end of the year (26).
Gleizes and Mainie Jellett have been working on mural decorations for a church in Serrières the Crucifixion, Deposition from the Cross and the Coronation of the Virgin. Although, in the event, the Bishop refuses to allow their installation in the church, they mark an important stage in Gleizes' development, and are his first paintings done on an overtly religious theme.
Gleizes' essay, Kubismus, is published by the Bauhaus. The theoretical part Cubisme vers un essai de généralisation is greatly reduced and the main emphasis is on a historical essay which distinguishes the public ambitions of the Salon Cubists from what Gleizes sees as the private and esoteric world of Picasso and Braque. The book is particularly interesting for its illustrations, showing work by all the best known Cubist painters, with comments by Gleizes. These divide Cubism into three phases: the first an emphasis on volume (hence the 'cubes'); the second, the adoption of a multiplicity of points of view, in opposition to the Renaissance principle of single point perspective; and the third a rejection of the perspective mechanism altogether, insisting on the essential flatness of the picture plane.
Gleizes argues that all the major Cubists have passed through these three phases and that all are now in the third, which also characterises a younger group of painters. This younger generation, whose work is also shown in the book, consists essentially of Gleizes' pupils together with pupils of Fernand Léger and of the Académie Moderne which he had formed with Amédée Ozenfant (1886-1966) in 1924. Gleizes however is highly critical of Léger and his pupils, mainly complaining that they have not gone beyond the static aspect which he calls 'translation' to enter into the mobile aspect which he calls 'rotation'.
Gleizes also publishes La terre et les métiers manuels, his first essay arguing for a return to agriculture and manual crafts, in Les Cahiers de l'Etoile, journal of the Krishnamurti movement in France. Gleizes begins working on what will be his most ambitious published work, La Forme et l'Histoire.
The publication of a French version of Kubismus brings Gleizes closer to Robert Delaunay. Gleizes has been in continual contact with Delaunay since the pre-war period, but he has been disappointed by the figurative style Delaunay has since developed. In Kubismus, Gleizes presents Delaunay's near non-representational paintings done shortly before the First World War as the real "dénouément" of Cubism, especially the Formes Circulaires, Disques, Soleils and Lunes of 1913-14, because they expressed better than the work of any other painter the optical movement, or 'rotation', Gleizes is seeking to create a painting that would embody time and rhythm.
Gleizes sees this as intimately related to Delaunay's insistence on colour as against the older Cubist emphasis on form. Gleizes' own researches, possibly prompted by a letter he had received from Pouyaud in 1927, are now heavily concentrating on colour and on the building up of an essentially circular movement through successive 'cadences' of colour which guide the eye from one to the other.
In November, Gleizes is involved in a polemical exchange with the writer, Guillaume Janneau, whose book L'Art Cubiste, one of the first major studies of Cubism to be written by an author not personally involved in the movement, is largely an attack on Gleizes' philosophical and technical views an attack which, as Gleizes points out, is not unduly burdened with an understanding of the subject under discussion.
Also in the same year, Gleizes has been contacted by François Mannevy, who has opened a gallery in Nice. Mannevy had been in contact with Gleizes in 1920 at the time of Gleizes' involvement with Clarté. Gleizes agrees to exhibit at Mannevy's gallery in a joint exhibition with a young painter, Walter Firpo, who will later become one of his most fervent supporters.
In the event, Mannevy's gallery is a commercial failure and in October, in response to an invitation from Gleizes, he and his wife join the Pouyauds in Moly Sabata. Initially their relations with the Pouyauds are good, but Pouyaud soon feels that they are more interested in having a roof over their heads than in the ideas for which Moly Sabata had been founded.
At the same time, Pouyaud is also working with Grace Crowley (1890-1979), an Australian who had contacted Gleizes in the Summer at the suggestion of her friend, Anne Dangar (1887 1951). Dangar and Crowley, like Evie Hone and Mainie Jellett, had been pupils of André Lhote. Dangar had seen paintings by Gleizes in the Salon des Tuileries in 1928 and been deeply impressed but had had to return to Australia soon after. Crowley suggests that Gleizes should invite her back to France to work at Moly Sabata and, when Gleizes sends her a telegram to this effect in September, she accepts by return of post.
Anne Dangar arrives in Moly Sabata in March. In April, Gleizes gives the manuscript of la Forme et l'Histoire to his publisher, Jacques Povolozky. Povolozky agrees to publish it but eventually, to Gleizes' annoyance, it does not appear until 1932.
Gleizes urges Delaunay to abandon figurative painting altogether and concentrate on his discs presented nakedly as they are. Whether in response to Gleizes' urging or not, this is the direction Delaunay takes. Gleizes is involved with the shortlived Cercle et Carré, formed by the Belgian art theorist Michel Seuphor as a forum for non-representational painting.
Apparently at Pouyaud's urging, Gleizes makes contact with the esoteric philosopher, René Guénon (1886-1951), whom he had met briefly in Paris and who is now living in Cairo (27).
Walter Firpo organises an exhibition of Gleizes and his pupils. The exhibition also includes work by th English painter, Ben Nicholson (1894-1982) probably through Evie Hone, who is a friend of Winifred Nicholson's (1893-1981). Over the Summer, Firpo and the Russian painter, Serge Charchoune (1888-1971), whom Gleizes had known in Barcelona, spend some time in Moly Sabata, which is also visited by the composer and musician, César Geoffray (1901-1972), possibly at Mannevy's invitation. Pouyaud is becoming disillusioned with the adventure, partly because of tensions with the Mannevys. The Mannevys leave in October and the Pouyauds leave in November. In order to gain a living, Anne Dangar, who is now in charge of the house and will continue to maintain it for the next twenty years, works at one of the small potteries in the region which still exist using the traditional terre vernissé (glazed earth) technique.
Gleizes publishes Vie et Mort de l'Occident Chrétien, arguing that the attitude toward nature and towards human work implied in industrial production is incompatible with Christianity and that its triumph represents the end of the cycle in European history which had begun when Christianity overcame the Roman Empire.
Gleizes is on the committee of Abstraction-Création, formed, largely on the initiative of the painter Auguste Herbin (1882-1960), as a forum for international non-representational art. It proves to be more lasting than Cercle et carré. In May, Geoffray and his family move into Moly Sabata, together with their maid, Lucie Deveyle (1908-1956), who will soon become close friends with Anne Dangar and a distinguished weaver and teacher of Gleizes' principles. Geoffray forms a choir from the children of Sablons and Serrières, and Anne Dangar gives painting lessons. Although his time at Moly Sabata has the appearance of a fallow period in Geoffray's life, he would go on to form the choral movement A Coeur Joie in the forties which would be an important force encouraging the practice of non-professional choral singing through France. He always insists on the debt the movement owes to his time with Gleizes at Moly Sabata.
La Forme et l'Histoire is published. Although, with illustrations by Pouyaud, the book is very beautiful, Gleizes is angry at Povolozky over the delay in publication. In the Spring he embarks on a lecture tour in Germany and Poland, giving his talks, Art et Religion, Art et Science and Art et Production, together with a talk on Moly Sabata, which he gives at the Bauhaus at a meeting chaired by Kandinsky.
Gleizes is increasingly involved with circles interested in the rejection of the industrial system and the return to agriculture and the manual crafts. These include the Anglo-Indian philosopher and theorist of art, Ananda Coomaraswamy (1877-1947), René Guénon, and Jacques Demarquette, whose 'naturist' group, Trait d'Union, runs a small journal, Régénération. Gleizes becomes a frequent contributor to Régénération and for some time seems to have become virtually its editor.
He writes a book on Robert Delaunay for publication by Abstraction-Création, developing the argument of Kubismus that Delaunay had been the first to see the real end of Cubism, the recognition that "form and movement are one and the same thing" ("La forme et le mouvement ne font qu'un"). Although Gleizes reworked the text in 1937 and in 1945 it has never been published.
Gleizes initially welcomes the Nazi seizure of power in Germany in August believing that it is the only means by which Germany can recover from the crippling effect of the in Gleizes' eyes vindictive Versailles settlement. He is also interested in the fact that some of the Nazi leaders, including Hitler himself, have expressed opposition to the industrial system and a desire to reaffirm the human value of agriculture and the crafts (28).
Gleizes describes this year as "the most important year of my life" ("l'année que je considère comme la plus décisive de mon existence"). It begins with a 'Naturist' conference held in Gleizes' home in Serrières. The participants include the Dutch philosopher, a disciple of the Sufi teacher Inayat Khan, Louis Hoyack. In the course of what he describes as long and exhausting theological discussions with Hoyack, Gleizes feels that his own work is incomplete and that the methods he has developed, partly through his study of Robert Delaunay, have not succeeded in achieving the 'rotation' he wants. He takes his paintings of the early thirties and adds to them a very simple arabesque in neutral grey. The grey evokes the complementaries of all the colours it passes and has a simplifying, unifying effect on the overall construction. Gleizes submits all the recent works he has at his disposal to this treatment (29).
In June, he shows them in an exhibition organised by Abstraction-Création but, seeing them in their new context, in Paris, he is again dissatisfied, feeling that the grey arabesques have not been properly prepared and remain external to the overall construction. In the Autumn, he begins a series of paintings which will continue for the next few years, in which three levels are clearly distinguished: the static translation, corresponding to his researches of the 1920s; mobile rotation, corresponding to his researches into coloured cadences in the late 1920s and early 1930s; and a simple grey circle which, Gleizes argues, gives the 'form' or unifying 'rhythm' of the painting.
The level of 'translation' is generally a geometrical figure which evokes a representational image so that, unlike the work of the early 1930s, these works no longer conform to the Abstraction Création criterion of strict non-representation. Abstraction-Création is in any case beginning to fall apart, partly as a result of dissatisfaction with Auguste Herbin's autocratic presidency. One of the complaints against Herbin is that he has authorised a talk by Gleizes in the context of his June exhibition without consulting the committee (30),
Gleizes shows two paintings that are a result of his 1934 researches at the Salon d'Automne and they make a deep impression on Léonce Rosenberg. Although Rosenberg published Gleizes extensively in his Bulletin de l'Effort Moderne, he had not previously shown much enthusiasm for his painting. His gallery is now much less important than it had been but he is still one of the few champions of the non-representational development of Cubism operating in the difficult circumstances of the art market in the early 1930s, after the Wall St crash. This is the beginning of a close, sometimes stormy, relationship with Gleizes, which continues through the 1930s and is reflected in an almost continuous stream of correspondence (31).
Rosenberg is involved in organising a major retrospective of Cubism Les Créateurs du Cubisme with the journals Beaux Arts and the Gazette des Beaux Arts. In the event, the exhibition consecrates the by now generally accepted view that Cubism was an invention of the painters associated with the gallery of D.H.Kahnweiler principally Picasso and Braque but with some respect given to Fernand Léger and Juan Gris. The other painters appear as more or less interesting marginal figures. Delaunay, who had only been included in the exhibition at Gleizes' insistence, is particularly upset.
Gleizes and Delaunay are also involved in the first Salon de l'Art Mural which argues that mural painting is the solution to the social uselessness of the painter and the difficulty of earning a living. Gleizes gives a talk at the Salon de l'Art Mural in which he argues that a three dimensional painting of the sort practised by Michelangelo is incompatible with the nature of the wall. At the end of the year a major exhibition of Italian painting from the early Renaissance inspires Gleizes to write his book Homocentrisme in which the central historical perceptions of La Forme et l'Histoire are presented in a simpler manner in the light of the evolution which had taken place in his work and thinking in 1934.
Delaunay contacts Gleizes about the need to secure a presence for Cubism at the forthcoming Exposition Universelle. Gleizes submits Homocentrisme to the Cahiers du Sud, an influential journal published by a group of young poets and philosophers which has already published an essay by him on the role of the Arabesque in Muslim art. The editor, Jean Ballard says that he cannot publish Gleizes' overtly theological conclusions but that, largely on the recommendation of the poet Joë Bousquet, he proposes to publish a lengthy extract dealing with the nature of perception under the title, Le Problème de la Lumiére. Gleizes enters into correspondence with Bousquet.
Le problème de la Lumière is published in the Cahiers du Sud. Later in the year, Gleizes publishes the whole book under his own 'Moly Sabata' imprint. Gleizes is invited to contribute to the mural decorations of the Universal Exhibition. He collaborates with Delaunay in the Pavillon de l'Air and with Fernand Léger and Léopold Survage for the Pavillon de l'Union des Artistes Modernes. Moly Sabata is also invited to exhibit at the pavilion of the Forez-Vivarais region of France. Gleizes and Delaunay see the success of their mural paintings as proof of the enduring strength of Cubism, arguing that Cubism is the only modern style that has proved suitable for the wall.
Gleizes organises two general exhibitions, one in the Petit Palais at the beginning of the year and the other at the Salon d'Automne at the end of the year, to illustrate his argument for the continued vitality of Cubism. In the Summer, he is invited, with Delaunay and other painters of the pre-war Cubist generation, to contribute a series of very large scale panels to the sculpture hall in the Salon des Tuileries. At the end of 1937 he had been invited with Jacques Villon to paint a mural decoration for the lecture room of the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers. His elaborate sketches for this project indicate a development away from the formula he had devised in 1934. The three levels of translation-rotation-rhythm or, as he increasingly calls them, measure-cadence rhythm, are still present but no longer so clearly indicated. In the event, after all the preparatory work has been completed, the project is rejected.
At the beginning of the year, Gleizes learns that the religious community which owns Moly Sabata is anxious to sell it. Despite his success at the Universal Exhibition, he does not have the means to buy but eventually, in August, he is able to raise enough money through selling a large number of paintings to the American collector, Solomon R. Guggenheim. These include his masterpiece of the pre-war Cubist period, Le Dépiquage des Moissons, which he had hoped would have been taken by a museum in France.
He is contacted by a young schoolteacher in Vienne in the Rhone valley, Jean Chevalier (b.1913), who becomes one of his most enthusiastic supporters. At the end of the year Gleizes becomes a regular participant in open evenings for young painters organised by Robert Delaunay in his studio in Paris.
Gleizes is deeply depressed by the approach of war. Mme Gleizes tells us that, very untypically, he spends his time during the Sudeten crisis making models of demonic creatures, which express his state of mind.
Soon after war breaks out, Gleizes visits the estates at Les Méjades and Archaimbaud near St Rémy. He finds them in very bad condition and resolves to settle there and take control of them himself.
In the context of the outbreak of war he starts work on a second volume of La Forme et l'Histoire and on two major allegorical paintings Autorité Spirituelle et Pouvoir Temporel (usually referred to as Le Pape et l'Empereur) and La Chute de Babylon. All of these works assert his conviction that political society requires a spiritual authority. He also returns to non representational painting with Pour l'esprit les verts and Pour l'esprit les rouges.
The Gleizes leave Serrières for the last time in January to go to St Rémy. They sell Archaimbaud and employ a team of Spanish Republican refugees to put Les Méjades into shape, converting its vineyards to food production.
The young writer, Henri Giriat, moves into Les Méjades as a farmworker. He finds the conditions very hard as the estate is in the process of conversion (32). Anne Dangar visits the Gleizes in November and finds them both tired and depressed.
In the same month, Gleizes is contacted by the English mountain climber and writer on Buddhism, friend and correspondent of Coomaraswamy, Marco Pallis who wants to publish an English translation of Vie et Mort de l'Occident Chrétien.
Through his friendship with a priest, père Jérôme, Gleizes considers entering formally into communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
Although Gleizes had been baptised, he had never been confirmed, apparently because his mother had developed an interest in the esoteric philosophy of 'Papus', Gérard Encausse, founder of the 'Rosicrucian' and 'Martinist orders' (33). Although Gleizes has identified with the Catholic Christian doctrine which prevailed in Europe up to the twelfth century he has remained suspicious of the contemporary church. He engages in a study of the catechism and takes his first communion at the end of the year. At about the same time he learns of the death of Robert Delaunay.
Anne Dangar visits Les Méjades early in 1942 and finds the atmosphere much improved. She attributes this to Gleizes' reception into the church. Gleizes begins the series of Supports de Contemplation, large scale, wholly non-representational paintings that are at once very complex and very serene. It may have been in 1942 that he began work on his Souvenirs.
Les Méjades begins to realise its potential as an agricultural producer. Gleizes joins a commission established by the Comité National du Folklore (34) to encourage the development of traditional crafts. He complains that he has not been given the means to be effective. He becomes friends with the musician Joseph Olivier who, under his influence, resigns his job as an insurance salesman to concentrate on reviving the art of the 'tambourinaires' of Provence (35).
Gleizes continues his series of Supports de Contemplation with the great Peinture à sept éléments. He also paints the Triptyque Crucifixion, Le Christ en Gloire, Transfiguration. His painting, without ever collapsing into formlessness, is moving ever further away from the regularity and clear definition of his painting of the 1934-8 period.
Gleizes' Spanish workers are requisitioned for work in Germany. They are saved, together with all the Spanish workers in the area, by Mme Gleizes who intervenes directly with the German ambassador at Vichy.
Gleizes' relations with his Father Confessor, Père Jérôme, begin to cool, mainly because of Gleizes' insistence on a symbolic interpretation as being of greater importance than the historical fact of the great Christian mysteries, and his continued sympathy for religions other than Christianity. Gleizes reaffirms his views on art and religion in two important essays written in December Spiritualité, Rythme, Forme and L'Arc en Ciel Clef de l'Art Chrétien médiéval (36).
Mainie Jellett dies. Gleizes is deeply depressed by the violence and settling of scores that accompanies the Liberation. He believes that as the settlement of the First World War prepared the way for the second so the settlement of the second is preparing the way for a third. His pessimism is in contrast with the delight shared by Anne Dangar and Pouyaud.
Spiritualité, Rythme, Forme is published in the Lyon based journal Confluences, in a special edition giving articles by a wide range of artists. Although the collection had been planned under the occupation, its appearance in 1945 excites great interest as an indication of the directions French art can be expected to take in the post war era.
Gleizes and Pouyaud re-establish contact with René Guénon, who becomes much better known when his book Le Règne de la Quantité is published by the important French publishing house Gallimard in October. Marco Pallis writes to say that he is going ahead with the project of publishing Vie et Mort de l'Occident Chrétien in an English translation. Jean Metzinger writes proposing a republication of Du "Cubisme".
As a result of Spiritualité, Rythme, Forme, Gleizes is contacted by the mediaeval historian Régine Pernoud. She tells him that the distinction he has drawn between rhythmic and spatial ages is the key to understanding mediaeval history. She introduces his writings to Fr Thomas de Romefort of the influential Dominican seminary at St Maximin. De Romefort shares her enthusiasm and visits Les Méjades over the Summer.
Also as a result of Spiritualité, Rythme, Forme, Gleizes is contacted by Angelico Surchamp, a novice in the Benedictine monastery of Ste Marie de la Pierre-qui-Vire, which is situated near the great Romanesque basilica of Vézélay and also near Clamecy, where Pouyaud is living. Surchamp visits Gleizes in the Autumn and meets Pouyaud on his return to the monastery. He takes his final vows in October and opens a workshop, the Atelier de la Coeur Meurtry to teach and practise Gleizes' principles (37).
In September, Gleizes is contacted by Walter Firpo who will act as his representative in Marseilles as Jean Chevalier is acting as his representative in Lyon.
An article by the Lyon gallery owner, Marcel Michaud (1898-1958), is published in the journal Arts, hailing Gleizes as having established the principles of a renewal of religious art. Surchamp's brother, Dom Jean Claude Nesmy, also a monk in the Abbaye de Ste Marie de la Pierre-qui-Vire, is editor of the monastery's journal, Témoignages, which becomes a vehicle for the writings of Gleizes and his pupils. Gleizes is invited to address the pupils at de Romefort's seminary, St Maximin.
Life and Death of the Christian West is published in London and the new edition of Du "Cubisme", with a foreword by Gleizes and afterword by Metzinger, is published in Paris.
A quarrel begins to develop between Pouyaud and the monks of La Pierre-qui-Vire over Pouyaud's continued enthusiasm for the esoteric philosophy of René Guénon. At the same time disagreements develop between Gleizes and Thomas de Romefort over essentially the same questions that had produced tensions between Gleizes and his confessor, père Jérôme: Gleizes' insistence on a symbolic interpretation of the mysteries of the church, his respect for religions other than Christianity, his interest in Guénon and, most importantly perhaps, his conviction that the Church's endorsement of the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas had prepared the way for the West's adoption of a scientific, materialist world view; and that the Church would have to abandon it if it was to find its way back to a religious world view, which, Gleizes believed, it no longer really possessed.
Gleizes comes under attack in the pages of Arts from père Pie-Raymond Régamey. Régamey is one of the leading champions in the French Roman Catholic Church of the use of modern art for liturgical purposes, responsible for the use of modern painters to decorate the church at Assy, for the commissions given to Le Corbusier at Ronchamp and La Tourette, and to Matisse at Vence. He argues that the Church can and should employ artists who are experts in their field but who do not necessarily believe in Catholic doctrine. The responsibility for doctrine lies with the theologians of the Church. In developing a theological argument, Régamey believes that Gleizes has gone outside the proper limits of his craft.
At the end of the year, Michaud organises a major Gleizes retrospective in Lyon. At it there is a heated exchange between Régamey and Jean Chevalier. Régamey accuses Gleizes of wanting to introduce a new academicism into painting (38).
The Salon des Réalités Nouvelles, which has been promoting non-representational art in France since the end of the war, is reorganised with a committee mainly consisting of artists, including Gleizes, under the chairmanship of Auguste Herbin. The structure and intentions resemble those of the old Abstraction-Création.
Angelico Surchamp visits Moly Sabata and establishes a close friendship with Anne Dangar (39).
The disagreement between Régamey and Gleizes continues. Gleizes loses the support of de Romefort and Pernoud but keeps that of the Benedictines of La Pierre-qui-Vire. Angelico Surhamp is ordained as a priest. Gleizes writes Peinture et de l'Homme devenu Peintre as a response to the explosion of interest in non-representational art, particularly associated with the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles. He argues against an art of subjective self expression in favour of objective principles derived logically from the basic properties of the space to be covered in paint.
Gleizes' own painting has reached a stage at which the underlying structure (measure, cadence and rhythm), though always present, has become very difficult to identify. He accepts a commission from Jacques Klein, a publisher based in Casablanca, to produce a series of etchings illustrating the Pensées sur l'Homme et Dieu of Blaise Pascal.
Gleizes' time is taken with the illustrations for Pascal's Pensées which become almost a testament as he revisits all the different phases of his development since 1914. Over the Summer, Gleizes is ill with an inflammation of his right were, largely due to the intense concentration required by his etching work.
The Pensées is published. Gleizes organises a series of exhibitions throughout France to promote it. He loses the sight of his right eye.
The disagreements among his following between the 'Guénonians' and the 'Catholics' continue. Pouyaud, together with the group in Lyon, especially Jean Chevalier and René Maria Burlet (1907 1994), a painter who, though sympathetic to Gleizes, never counts himself as a pupil, decide to launch a new journal entitled L'Atelier de la Rose to emphasise the need both for a craftsmanlike and a religious approach to the arts. Although Dom Angelico Surchamp and Anne Dangar both contribute to the first edition it soon becomes clearly identified with the 'Guénonian' wing of Gleizes' supporters.
In October, Anne Dangar, after a period of illness, decides to enter the Roman Catholic Church.
Gleizes achieves an unusual and, in his own eyes, rather disconcerting, degree of respectability. He is a member of the jury of the Prix de Rome; he is awarded the Légion d'Honneur; he is nominated for the Institut de France; he jointly wins the Grand Prix at the Menton Biennale. But a reunion in Créteil of the remaining members of the Abbaye only serves to demonstrate the distance that has developed between himself and his former comrades, mainly on the question of religion.
An article defending his work is published in the Jesuit magazine, Etudes. It is written by a young seminarian, Henri de Montrond, and Gleizes is invited to speak at the Jesuit seminary at Chantilly (40).
His painting has developed into what will, as it happens, be its last phase, the period of the 'arabesques'. It is prefigured in the argument of L'Homme devenu Peintre, which celebrates line as the mobile element in painting. The circularity of the painting is still asserted through the fact that eventually, after many variations and digressions, the line joins up with itself.
Dom Angelico launches a new journal, Zodiaque, in part as a Catholic response to L'Atelier de la Rose. It will eventually develop into the very successful Zodiaque series of guides to Romanesque art throughout Europe. Surchamp is present when Anne Dangar is received into the Roman Catholic Church in March. She dies in September, leaving her friend, the weaver Lucie Deveyle, looking after Moly Sabata.
Gleizes works on two important mural projects, one for the Jesuits in the chapel of the new seminary at Chantilly and the other, secured through the influence of Walter Firpo, for the decoration of a church to be built in a workers' estate in the naval dockyard at La Ciotat, near Marseilles.
His preparatory sketches for both projects are praised by the old Jesuit priest, Victor Fontoynont, specialist in patristic studies who is the inspiration behind the ambitious publishing project, Sources Chrétiennes, which sets itself to provide bilingual editions of the major writings of the early pre-Thomist Fathers of the Church.
The fresco for the seminary at Chantilly is realised by a team working under the direction of R.M.Burlet and Marcel Cluzel, both contributors to L'Atelier de la Rose (41). But the project at La Ciotat, a Chemin de la Croix, is, like so many of Gleizes' other mural projects, aborted after all the preparatory work has been done. This time the main problem has been union opposition to the building of the church.
The Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris contacts Gleizes asking for help with a major retrospective exhibition on the history of Cubism. Gleizes enters into correspondence on the subject with the historian Bernard Dorival.
To Gleizes' disappointment the catalogue for the exhibition le Cubisme at the Musée d'Art Moderne consecrates the generally accepted idea that Cubism had been first and foremost the invention of Picasso and Braque. Gleizes gives a public lecture in Paris in protest. He dies in June from an unexpected complication in what should have been a routine operation on the prostate gland.
1 The main source for Gleizes' life is the unpublished Souvenirs in the Musée National d'Art Moderne. See also my own Albert Gleizes For and Against the Twentieth Century; Pierre Alibert: Gleizesbiographie (to 1930); and Daniel Robbins: Formation and Maturity of Albert Gleizes (to 1920).
2 Account of the Abbaye de Créteil in Sénéchal: Abbaye de Créteil.
3 "Vers une époque de bâtisseurs" in Clarté nº 32, 11 septembre 1920.
4 Extracts from Allard's articles are given in Fry: Cubism, pp.62-4. Apollinaire's article is in Apollinaire: Chroniques d'Art, pp. 158-9.
5 The studio was taken over by Léger after Le Fauconnier's departure from Paris.
6 Gleizes' account of these salons has been published in 'Souvenirs: le Cubisme, 1908-1914', Cahiers Albert Gleizes, Association des Amis d'Albert Gleizes, Lyon, 1957. Reprinted, Association des Amis d'Albert Gleizes, Ampuis, 1997.
7 In 'Jean Metzinger', La Revue Indépendante, n°4, sept 1911.
8 Tomkins: Duchamp, p.83
9 There is an account of the debate, giving substantial extracts, in Patrick F. Barrer: Quand l'art du XXe siècle était conçu par les inconnus, pp.93-101.
10 All three collaborated, for example, in a journal called La Vie Mystérieuse which specialised in 'magie, cartomancie, graphologie, spiritisme, astrologie, magnétisme'. There is no evidence that Gleizes shared these particular interests. Nor is there very much evidence to suggest that Gleizes shared his friends' interest in Celtic nationalism.
11 Apollinaire: Méditations esthétiques les peintres Cubistes, 1965 ed., p. 76.
12 From this point onwards Juliette Roche-Gleizes' unpublished Mémoires are an important general source.
13 'C'est en allant se jeter à la mer que le fleuve reste fidèle à sa source', Le Mot, n°17, 1/5/1915.
14 Conférence faite au Twillight [sic] Club de New York, novembre 1915, unpubld ms.
15 I had ascribed this letter to 1916 on the basis of internal evidence, but Pascal Rousseau has found what appears to be the same letter in the Henri Barzun acrhive at Columbia University, NY, where it is dated 24th August 1917 (P.Rousseau: L'âge des synthèses L'oeuvre d'Albert Gleizes à Barcelone, 1912-1916 in C. Briend et al: Le Cubisme en majesté, Albert Gleizes, exhibition catalogue, Musée Picasso, Barcélone; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, 2001, pp 171-2)
16 'La Peinture Moderne' in 391, n° 5, 5 June, 1917.
17 Dom Angelico Surchamp: 'L'itinéraire pictural et spirituel d'Albert Gleizes' in Albert Gleizes, Le Cubisme et son dénouément dans la tradition, exhibition catalogue, Lyon 1947, p.6. About the same time the American non-representational painter, Mark Tobey, had a similar experience in connection with Marcel Duchamp: 'Je me rappelle un soir, après une soirée passée au studio de Marcel Duchamp, pendant que j'attendais le train, je me demandais s'il pouvait exister quelque chose de plus grand que l'art. Cette idée m'a hanté pendant plusieurs jours durant lesquels je pensais énormément à l'expression "l'amour de Dieu". Qu'est-ce que cela peut signifier pour une personne comme moi? Cela m'a amené à prier pour en apprendre plus sur cet état profond.", quoted in Julie Oeming Badice: '"Les deux forces" de Mark Tobey', La Pensée Bahaie, n° 110, printemps 1990, p.9. Given that Gleizes frequented Duchamp's soirées it is possible that he might have played a role in Tobey's experience.
18 Alibert: Gleizes, p.129.
19 Juliette Roche Gleizes: Mémoires, 1920-25 and ibid: 'Albert Gleizes en son temps', Zodiaque, n° 100, April 1974.
20 There is an account in Green: Cubism and its Enemies, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 1987, p.179.
21 Account of Jellett and (to a rather lesser extent) Hone in Arnold, Bruce: Mainie Jellett and the Modern Movement in Ireland, Yale University Press, New Haven and London,1991. Account of Colette Allendy in Frémont, Marguerite: La vie du Dr René Allendy, 1889-1942, Climats, Castelnau le-Lez, 1994.
22 Gleizes: La peinture et ses lois, ce qui devait sortir du Cubisme, Paris 1924, p.41
23 The argument is given in the French text of Kubismus published as 'L'épopée, de la forme immobile à la forme mobile', Le Rouge et le Noir, 1929, reprinted in Puissances du Cubisme, Editions Présence, Chambéry, 1969. This may be consulted on the present website.
24 The very moving date and circumstances of Pozonansky's death have been communicated to me by Jean François Delaunay. He died of blood-poisoning (une septicémie) contracted while working as a stretcher bearer at Lourdes.
25 'L'inquiétude, crise plastique', La Vie des Lettres et des Arts, 2nd series, n° 20, May 1925, pp.38- 52.
26 The best general account of Moly Sabata is Dubois, André: Anne Dangar et Moly Sabata, dissertation prepared for the University of Lyon, 1971. Text available from the Association des Amis d'Albert Gleizes.
27 According to Pouyaud in a talk he gave in 1970 Les sept étapes d'Albert Gleizes sur la voie métaphysique, ms in Pouyaud archive, Ampuis.
28 The draft of a letter giving his views to a group of students and probably written in 1933 is in the Gleizes archive in the Musée Nationale d'Art Moderne, catalogued as an essay under the title 'Hitler'. See also in the same archive the correspondence with the German engraver Gottfried Graf.
29 Gleizes' account in the Souvenirs has been published as Albert Gleizes en 1934, Association des Amis d'Albert Gleizes, Ampuis, 1997 and Le pouvoir des mots-clefs, Association des Amis d'Albert Gleizes, Ampuis, 1993. These may be consulted on the present website.
30 There is an account in Fabre, Gladys: Herbin, exhibition catalogue, Musée d'Art Moderne, Céret, 1994; ADAGP, Paris, 1994.
31 Léonce Rosenberg to Gleizes, 15/[11?]/34. Many of Rosenberg's letters to Gleizes are in the Gleizes archive in the Musée Nationale d'Art Moderne.
32 He gives an account of life in St Rémy in 'Chronique des Méjades' in Albert Gleizes à Saint-Rémy, exhibition catalogue, Musée des Alpilles, Saint-Rémy de Provence, 1990.
33 J.R.Gleizes: Mémoires 1940, le Père Jérôme.
34 A history of the Comité National du Folklore is given in a special edition of L'Echo des Provinces, Sept-Oct 1941.
35 Preface by Thomas de Romefort to Joseph Olivier: 'Jeunesse du rythme dans la musique traditionnelle', Atelier de la Rose, N° 12, Feb 1954.
36 Both have been republished in Gleizes: Puissances du Cubisme.
37 Account in Surchamp: L'Art Roman, rencontre entre Dieu et les hommes.
38 Régamey and the Lyon exhibition in the Gleizes-Chevalier correspondence, Musée Nationale d'Art Moderne.
39 Reflected in her correspondence, published as Anne Dangar: Lettres à la Pierre-qui-Vire.
40 de Montrond, Henri: 'Art sacré et théologie', Etudes, dec 1951.
41 There is an account of the project written by various of the people involved with it in Gleizes et al: 'La Fresque "L'Eucharistie"' d'Albert Gleizes, Atelier de la Rose, n° 9, March 1953. Reprinted in ibid, Association de Amis d'Albert Gleizes, Ampuis, 1995.