GLEIZES ON PICASSO AND BRAQUE (1911-1953) An anthology (First published in French, Association des Amis d'Albert Gleizes, 1997)
- PREFACE by the translator
1. Albert Gleizes, Les Méjades, to Mme [-], n.d. 
2. 'L'Art et ses représentats - Jean Metzinger', La Revue Indépendante, no 4, Sept 1911
3. L'Art dans l'évolution générale, unpublished MS dated 'New York, January 1917'
4. 'La Peinture moderne', 391, New York, June 1917
- 5. Du Cubisme et les moyens de le comprendre, Paris (eds "La Cigogne) 1921
6. 'Salon d'Automne de 1921', La Vie des lettres et des arts, Vol vii, dec 1921
7. 'L'épopée - de la forme immobile à la forme mobile', Le Rouge et le Noir, July 1929. French version of Kubismus, Munich (Bauhausbücher, Verlag Albert Langen), 1928
8. Robert Delaunay, unpublished manuscript, 1933
9. 'Les Créateurs du Cubisme', Sud-Magazine, No 126, 15 avril, 1935
10. Souvenirs - retour à la France, 1919-26, unpublished ms, c1942-3
11. Introduction (written in 1944) to Puissances du Cubisme, Editions Présence, Chambéry, 1969.
12. 'Mentalité renouvelée II', Atelier de la Rose, No 10, June 1953
John Richardson in his biography of Picasso (vol 2, pp.208-9) claims that:
'All his life Albert Gleizes would suffer from a chip-on-the-shoulder delusion that he and Jean Metzinger, as opposed to Picasso and Braque, had invented Cubism ...'
Lest this little anthology should seem to confirm that impression, it should be stressed that, although it comprises nearly everything I know of (the most significant exception is the commentary to the illustrations in his book, Cubism, published by the Bauhaus in 1928) this is an infinitesimal fraction of Gleizes' total literary output, published and unpublished, and that, throughout all his writings on Cubism, Gleizes' main concern is not to establish who 'invented' Cubism but what the main idea of Cubism was, what it was in Cubism that deserved to live.
The articles come from a wide variety of sources from all periods in Gleizes' life and they show that, if there is a certain basic constancy in Gleizes' view, there are nuances that change. The texts in which Gleizes is most severe and hostile include several (nos 3, 8, 11) which were unpublished and we cannot tell if he would have wanted them published in the form in which we have them. Otherwise, Gleizes insists on the independence of the two tendencies - that of the Bateau Lavoir (Picasso and Braque) and that of Room 41 of the 1911 Salon des Indépendants. What characterises the latter in relation to the former is an ambition towards generalisation, affirmation of the drama of man wanting to find his place in relation to the Universal, 'to raise us up, on the basis of the moment in which we are living, to the eternal dramatic situation ...', as he says in our extract no 3. What he reproaches in the Bateau Lavoir (and it is what other commentators tend to like) is the intimate, personal, elegant and even, above all in the case of Picasso, humorous character of their art.
However, we can see, especially in the extracts nos.7 & 8, that Gleizes knew there was more to it than that, that 'With these two rare artists the drama of our age is played out in a moving way. There is a degree of perception [acuité] and a grandeur that is astonishing. The subject is seen in its total decomposition while the object would like to be reborn following its own law, which has not been recognised. End of one age, first stammerings of another, last attempt at a compromise [concordat] which is impossible..' to quote our extract no. 11. Gleizes saw Cubism as a collective work to which everyone, Picasso and Braque included, had contributed their share. He has no problem in recognising their anteriority though, as we see in nos 7 and 12, he feels that in many significant ways Braque was ahead of Picasso. Gleizes did not particularly insist on his own originality. If he denies having been influenced by Picasso and Braque, he often mentions the debt he owes to Metzinger and Le Fauconnier (for the pre-war period), to Metzinger and Gris (for the immediate post-war period) and to Robert Delaunay - first, he argues, to arrive at the 'dénouement' of Cubism, in the Circular Forms of 1913-4.
The texts are given in chronological order except for the first, which was actually the last to be written but which seems to provide a useful introduction, giving a brief account of the personal relations - or lack of personal relations - among the painters.
Extract No. 1
Albert Gleizes, Les Méjades, to Mme [-], n.d. 
This is taken from a letter probably addressed to Gabrielle Vienne, one of the organisers of a major exhibition - Le Cubisme, 1907-14, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, June-April, 1953 - an exhibition Gleizes had hoped would give a more accurate view of the history of Cubism and, in particular, demonstrate that the movement of which he had been a part and which was universally called 'Cubism' at the time - owed little or nothing to the work of Picasso and Braque. In the event, he was disappointed. The letter is a response to Vienne's request that he point out the errors he believed he had found in the catalogue.
Most centrally, Gleizes claims he only ever visited the gallery of D.H.Kahnweiler - where the works of Picasso and Braque were shown - once, and this was after the scandal of the Salon des Indépendants. Daniel Robbins showed this letter to Kahnweiler who replied that Gleizes had visited his gallery prior to this occasion. Gladys Fabre automatically believes Kahnweiler's account (1) but it has to be remembered that these are events which occurred over forty years previously (in the case of Gleizes; fifty years in the case of Kahnweiler). There is, however, a problem with Gleizes' account. He says the first encounter with Picasso, and only visit to Kahnweiler's gallery, took place after the opening of the Salon d'Automne of 1911. This took place in October, but Gleizes' essay on Jean Metzinger, which comments on the work of Picasso and Braque, was, apparently, written prior to the opening of the Salon and the journal in which it appears is dated September (see our extract number 2). The letter of course only specifies that Gleizes met Picasso and visited the gallery for the first time; it does not say this was the first time he saw the work.
In any case, of one thing we can be certain. He was not going in and out of Kahnweiler's gallery making studies and asking questions as he would have been if he saw this as the model for his own painting. Nor were he and his friends sitting anxiously in the garden at Puteaux waiting for Metzinger to turn up with news of the latest developments in the Bateau Lavoir. Gleizes was a born enthusiast and quite unable to restrain himself from giving voice to his enthusiasms; had the work in Kahnweiler's gallery been received by him as a revelation we would know about it. A detail that is worth noting. The moment when the group met Picasso, introduced by Apollinaire, was also the moment when Picasso had just rushed back to Paris at Apollinaire's demand over the affair of the Iberian statuettes stolen from the Louvre by Apollinaire's friend Pieret and passed on to Picasso, who may have used them as models for the Demoiselles d'Avignon. Apollinaire was about to be arrested and Picasso faced a possibility of deportation or worse. It was not really the ideal moment for a meeting that promised, even without these difficulties, to be rather fraught.
'What is necessary, I'm sorry to have to speak frankly, is to take everything up again from the foundations and, to begin with, to start out from the unquestionable reality of two currents which, unaware of each other, were finally enfolded under a single heading, the movement that was called 'Cubism'. You can then avoid confusion if, right from the start, you make the distinctions that must, in all honesty, be acknowledged. The history of the 'Bâteau Lavoir' belongs to those who were part of that particular grouping. Personally, I only know what has been said about this history; I do not know the details, nor did my comrades of the other group Metzinger, Delaunay, Le Fauconnier and Léger... But what I do know well, because I lived it and remember it perfectly, is the origin of our relations and their development to 1914, passing by the notorious Room 41 of the Indépendants of 1911, which provoked the ' involuntary scandal' out of which Cubism really emerged and spread in Paris, in France and through the world ...
'The exotic expressionism, derived from Fauvism, of the Bâteau Lavoir had as a counterpoint that "revision of the postulates of classicism" of the French painters at Courbevoie [where Gleizes was based] and Puteaux [where Jacques Villon was based]. Moreover, in a recent article on Léger which appeared in Arts (6-12 March), Léger admits that " I was" it is himself speaking "too classical, with the French sense of equilibrium, to adopt the romanticism of negro art which influenced Braque and Picasso. I met them, accompanied by my friend Delaunay, at Kahnweiler's, through Max Jacob and Apollinaire. 'They are spiders' webs', Delaunay, that admirable colourist, told me, after looking at the canvasses in neutral tones, with thin lines, of those we called the 'Montmartrois'". Exactly. Léger met Picasso with Le Fauconnier, Metzinger (the only one of us who knew him) and myself in the café tobacconists at the angle of the Rue J. Goujon and the Avenue d'Antin, after the opening of the Salon d'Automne of 1911, at the request G. Apollinaire made to me on the afternoon of the opening.
'Some days later, we went to Kahnweiler's for the first time and saw the canvasses of Braque and Picasso which, rightly or wrongly, did not thrill us. Their spirit, being the opposite of our own, explains our reticence. The meeting to which Léger refers could only credibly have occurred after that of which I speak, which was the first. Apart from our visit to Kahnweiler's, we had never seen either Picasso or Braque. For myself, I never met Braque before 1921 or 1922, and this was a chance encounter at L. Rosenberg's which only lasted a few minutes. As for Picasso, I met him three times in my life ... And as far as Kahnweiler is concerned I never again put my foot in his boutique after this first visit in 1911. For Gris, it was a little different; as he exhibited at the Indépendants from 1912 onwards, we met more often, at the Closerie des Lilas, or at my house at Courbevoie, but this more often was still not very often. He was never at the Villons at Puteaux.'
Extract No 2, from Jean Metzinger
La Revue Indépendante began publication in June 1911 under the patronage ('Dépôt générale') of Eugène Figuière, later publisher of On "Cubism" and of Apollinaire's Aesthetic Meditations - The Cubist Painters. According to Gladys Fabre (2), Figuière's house, opened in 1910, was a successor, via the Bibliothèque des douze and the Oeuvres du jour to the Abbaye de Créteil's own publishing house which, after the closure of the Abbaye itself in 1907/8, had continued in Paris. The contributors included the poet Paul Fort together with Alexandre Mercereau, Paul Castiaux, H.M.Barzun, Roger Allard and, quite prominently, Jacques Nayral, Gleizes' friend and later brother in law, subject of the great portrait which must have been done about this time. Nayral had contributed previous pieces in the series L'Art et ses représentats, on Mahler and on the writer Gaston Deschamps (1861-1931). Daniel Robbins' bibliography for the 1964 Guggenheim exhibition mentions another article in the series by Gleizes, on Le Fauconnier, but this does not seem to have appeared.
The phrase 'Impressionism of Form' expresses exactly how the analytical Cubism of Picasso and Braque would have appeared to the Salon Cubists and the article also indicates Gleizes's view that Metzinger had passed from one camp (Picasso and Braque) to the other. The Nude shown in the Salon d'Automne 1910 was famously denounced by Apollinaire as a 'jay in peacock's feathers' and it was indeed an obvious imitation of the contemporary work of Picasso and Braque. The same could not be said of the Goûter shown in the Salon d'Automne of 1911 which is less radical from the point of view of the deformation of the represented image but much more carefully constructed in relation to the overall shape of the picture frame.
The full text of the article is available in Antliff and Leighten (eds): A Cubism Reader.
In the midst of our present age, characterised as it is by overproduction and by the excessive number of the talents that appear, it is still, whatever anyone may say, possible to make out the direction in which painting is headed. After the efforts of Picasso, Braque, Derain, which are, doubtless, open to controversy but which appeared unquestionably at the right moment, we must notice in the group that affirmed its presence this year in Room 41 of the Indépendants - not because he is more important than any of the others but simply because he is the subject of this study - Jean Metzinger.
Coming just at the moment of the triumph of Impressionism, when Matisse was beginning to show and to count, Metzinger must, with his intelligence more than with his painter's sensibility, have seen early on that painting was floundering about in researches that were undermining preconceived notions but which only touched the superstructure; and that the very precious insights of Picasso and Braque did not, in spite of everything, break free from an impressionism of form which was still raised up in opposition to the impressionism of colour. Did he not write that we were dependent exclusively on principles invented by the Greeks, and that the researches of a modern artist should, by contrast, envisage the creation of plastic signs that would enrich the domain of our perceptions? (3) To enlarge the domain of our perception by enriching it with new possibilities, that is the whole question, and that would be the direction that Metzinger's art would take.
Extract No 3, from Art in the General Evolution
L'Art dans l'évolution générale, unpublished MS dated 'New York, January 1917', pp.41 and 143-9.
Art in the General Evolution, or While Waiting for Victory [En attendant la victoire], was an ambitious attempt to sum up the cultural experience of the pre-war period, trying to find the profound reasons behind the radical changes that had occurred in all the arts in that period - though as usual Gleizes has little to say on any artists, writers or musicians that he did not know personally. The book, of some 278 typescript pages, was never published and Juliette Roche Gleizes says in her Memoirs that Gleizes rejected it once he had his religious revelation - his conversion to belief in the existence of God - in 1918.
This extract is the most violent attack on Picasso that I know and may possibly be related to letters Gleizes had received from Delaunay during the war insisting on the need for a struggle against Picasso's influence - a longstanding theme with Delaunay. On the papier collé we may note the rather different view Gleizes gives in our extract no. 7.
And neither of them [Cézanne and Henri Rousseau] knew anything of commercial speculations. They have a small security against the morrow which gives them peace of mind for the day. They are protected from the need to sell [soucis de vente] because what they have is enough for them and because their ambition has not been stirred up [échauffée] by contact with the outside world. Neither the one nor the other would await, livid, in a dealer's backroom, the success of a commercial gamble that was being tried at the same time in the auction room [Hôtel des ventes] to raise the price of their pictures by playing on the credulity of the clientele - as happened one day to a young favourite through whom they wanted to establish a monopoly on 'modern painting'.(4)
At this level, the same illusions yesterday and today, cult of detail, of the limited, of the over-refined [tarabiscoté], leading to the same confusion, the same impotence, since the general sense has been lost. Little men, little ages. Consequence of the overheating of the clubs [cénacles], of their suffocations which, despite everything - so violent is the need [impulsion] to live - lead them to a simulacrum of life in the uselessness of masturbation where they hope to find a substitute. For is it not remarkable to observe that in many of these marginal productions which pass too readily for the art of today, there is constantly a hidden erotic meaning, and impotence reveals itself to the world [extérieurement] through an excess of words and gestures to do with the virility that is degraded by them. Nonetheless, impotence does not destroy desire which is always seeking to find once again the sensation that escapes it.
Another illusion which must be emphasised, and which is perpetuated because even the most intransigent among those who love modernism do not go beyond the external presentation of the picture, diverts the hopes of the age once again into an impasse in which obscurity is maintained uniquely in the interests of commercial speculation, and evolution - even that of the unquestionably gifted individual on which it plays and who is its first victim - is prevented.
One thing is beyond dispute. Today the need has been felt, as violently as it was in the great ages, for the idea of synthesis. Although the precise means that are necessary to realise it have not been found, certain burdensome parasites have been cut away. Painters have understood that to reach a certain degree of purity it was necessary to think on a larger scale [élargir]. The everyday, episodic anecdote, kitchen recipes and episodic (5) formulae, the optics of the painter - based too exclusively on episodic trompe l'oeil, have been overthrown. Everything in the picture was turned upside down and a new world appeared, still imprecise and searching for its equilibrium. The little tremblings of episodic atmosphere which had preoccupied the previous generation were abandoned. Something entirely new was being felt, something which had to be said independently of the particular sensibility, even though the launchpad [tremplin] for the spiritual currents of a collectivity which will give artistic production its life, has not yet been found.
Alas, speculation has already gambled on this anguish and it claims already to be in possession of it in a fully realised state. This speculation engaged in a fancy piece of footwork [un piètinement habile], a subterfuge which apparently spirited the old style away and created a sense of mystification by maintaining a clever external presentation sufficient to satisfy the window-shoppers' [badauds] taste for modernism.
And the old everyday anecdote of yesterday was reorganised to suit the demands of the clientele, the old confections [cuisines] and recipes were adapted to the recently developed taste for the exotic. The reasons behind the overthrow of old optical habits were sought insufficiently; the sensibility was exasperated; a humorous element [charge] was added through fragments of realism. The anecdote of arbitrary pieces of information [faits divers] was replaced by the anecdote of the sample chart, and the sentimental result was launched on the market and packaged as a work of genius. Naturally, a brand name was created. He was surrounded by all imaginable barriers so as to preserve his pedestal, an exclusive property. The doors of the foreign temples where he was to be worshipped were closed, by the force of draconian conventions, to other works which had no support and whose appearance would have compromised the work of speculation. In the artistic order, the easel painting [tableau] lost still more of its possibilities. The eighteenth century had reduced it to the proportions of the bed room; it now became an object for the shelves [rayonnage] and the shop window. A painting of this sort could not lend itself to any serious development.
The anecdotic subject appeared to disappear under the analytical fragments [fratras] of an object whose little peculiarities were all spread out with taste.The picturesque aspect [le pittoresque] instead of [the sentence is deficient. Probably it should read: 'instead of disappearing altogether'], became more slight in its content [menu] and more burdensome - the dry rot in a hovel that spreads on top of the representation of this hovel itself [le lépreux d'une masure sur la représentation de cette masure elle-même], a jumble of rags hanging from one window to another in their curious forms, the peculiar costumes of countries and provinces which up until now had catered to this taste for the picturesque.(6) The visibility of the objects was diminished so as to emphasise only their material. This material from which they were made, was closed up in ideas [enfermée dans des notions] and carefully applied to the canvas. Paper, wood, plaster, cloths, pieces of glass were glued there with a view to variety. Naturally commercial success inspired imitation among the painters and a host of little recipes, of little culinary pleasures, followed. Speculators with their own interests and the idiocy [sottise] of painters who played their game created a legend which up to now has never openly been challenged. It proclaimed that the entire movement of plastic art of our time had been thrown into confusion by the discoveries above-mentioned. Their inventor was made into the pivot of the movement which was being built. Everything came from him, he had foreseen everything and outside his genius the rest was nothing but pastiche and followers. The truth, however, is that it was the appearance of a group that gave the twist of the helm to the new aspirations. It was not the work of an isolated figure who presided over the mystery of a boutique, who surrounded himself with thick veils and acted on some sniffer dogs [flaireurs] and dupes, but rather the brutal appearance in broad daylight of a coherent group [ensemble homogène] who did not claim to be displaying masterpieces but wanted to witness to a fervent discipline, a new order. It is impossible to doubt the impulse that followed this first battle, it is impossible to find, if we recall the works that were shown, any contact between them and those whom they wanted to rig out in the cloak of initiative. No connection, no analogous source, no parallel evolution. On one side, the talk was all of the moderns and the negroes, on the other it was of the cathedrals and the solidity [sureté] of David and Ingres.
But for originality, it was an excellent field in which to play - many were the little discoveries. The inventor who was the favourite of the salerooms garnered everything, took everything over through his patent power and sovereign rights; he gathered all the little efforts together and so renewed himself at little cost. Sensibility had become mawkishness, the sentimentalism of the shop-girl [midinette] who arranges her room with taste. While the sensibility of the Neo-Impressionists had still been seeking the means to express itself fully, this sentimentalism was inclined to gossip, it spun things out, sliced them up finely, divided, subdivided, wearied us with cheap novels [énervait de romances à deux sous - the sentence seems defective. Could it be referring to Picasso and Braque's interest in Buffalo Bill?]. Art, doubtless, but of a secondary order, living under an appearance skilfully stitched together, going along with a current but using it to present old formulae with an external pictorial quality [pittoresque] that was different but whose laws remained the same, confined to the poor dimensions of a stunted detail. Not for a moment did they touch the level of the dramatic. There is taste, grace, delicacy, the eye lingers and finds something pleasurable, it may even find an original combination that will seduce it, but that is all. Not for a moment does the conflict rise to the point at which the man of today is confronted with the universe. But doubtless that is not what the bourgeois market was seeking.
But in this special way of presenting the weaknesses of yesterday there is hardly more than a compromise. Everything is missing that could act on our consciousness to raise us up, on the basis of the moment in which we are living, to the eternal dramatic situation ...
Extract No 4, from Modern Painting
'La Peinture moderne', 391, New York, June 1917
'391' was a journal published by Picabia in New York. Another version of the same article was published, somewhat mysteriously, in Geneva in 1918 as a pamphlet under the title Cubism [Le Cubisme].
In contrast to the development of a painter like Picasso, who straightaway made contact with men of the last generation - Seurat, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cézanne, Derain, Braque, and exotic elements borrowed from Chinese and black African sculptures - the group of painters who have been called 'Cubists' - Le Fauconnier, Metzinger, Léger, Picabia, M.Duchamp, J.Villon, de la Fresnaye - had the courage to return to the basic origins, to the old image-makers [imagiers] and stone cutters of their cathedrals, the ancient masters who alone could show them the secrets of their craft, architectures and techniques. The first paintings bear the unmistakeable marks of lessons of this sort. Beside Picasso's art, which is all a matter of sensibility, these works appear as thoroughly willed, massive, restrained. Lightheartedness and humour in the first, a solemnity reaching the level of the dramatic in the others; an art of analysis on the one hand; an art that is going towards synthesis on the other.
Extract No 5, from On Cubism and the Means of Understanding It
Du Cubisme et les moyens de le comprendre, Paris (eds "La Cigogne) 1921, pp.9, 12-13, 14-15
The first of Gleizes' writings to insist on the plane surface, in two dimensions, with clearly defined limits, as the primary reality in painting; and on the need to work with it rather than against it.
While Impressionism throughout its career was no more than a procedure without a future, born from the sensibility of some painters, following their growth [épanouissement] and also, alas! their decline [décrépitude], Cubism, obeying, in a manner of speaking, destiny [la fatalité] has so far gone through a sufficient number of changes to enable us to grasp the enormity of what it contained within itself [pour qu'on en surprenne l'énorme prophétie].
Two currents proceeding from two different groups right from the start. All it needs to see them is a little good faith and good eyes.
The one formed by the enthusiasms [élans] of Braque and Picasso.
The other by those of Metzinger, Léger, Le Fauconnier, Delaunay and myself.
The painters, obeying an irresistible psychical attraction much more than any clearly understood perception, began again, starting out from certain footholds that had been chosen arbitrarily, the slow work of exploration that had to end in the recovery of those laws that are primordial and eternal. Thus, the Braque and Picasso current kept to the descriptive notion of painting, while completely transforming its presentation. It broke the syntactic values of the way objects were represented. It reduced the accidental elements to certain essential simplifications. It renounced colour to confine itself in a greyish monochrome [la grisaille] and organised the way the picture was lit following the generally accepted notion of shadows and lights, while obeying more its own taste than the academic [scolaire] principle of the source of light that, itself immobile, immobilises everything, depending on where it is placed.
The appearance of the picture that had been conceived in this way revealed a fundamental anxiety, but its internal life was not changed, and the agitation was still only on the surface.
The other current, which appeared a little after the first, straightaway began by proclaiming that it was returning to David and Ingres.
From the start, among the painters of this current, we find, as with those of the other current, the same renunciation of the joys of colour. The whole work of research takes place in shadow and in muddy grey [grisaille]. As with the others too there is the same refusal of the principle of the light source that immobilises shadows and lights. The way the picture is lit depends on their taste, or on the emphasis they wish to give to one form rather than another.
The more one follows the evolution of this movement of regeneration, the more one can register [on constate] a concentration of the compositions towards the centre of the canvas. At first there is an obvious dispersal of the plastic organisation. The painters pay much more attention to the many influences the forms have on each other than on the composition. The work of composition is done more by old habits [clichés] than by a process of reasoning. Little by little the action gathers together. To an organisation which follows the elementary divisions of a chessboard [damier] succeeds an organisation that turns round an axis; a sort of embryonic organism begins to appear. There is a nucleus that seems to provoke a development of organs. But the body is not yet living in the real sense of the word. It is being formed in the mystery of a matrix and is wrapped in darkness.
Extract No 6, from The 1921 Salon d'Automne
'Salon d'Automne de 1921', La Vie des lettres et des arts, Vol vii, dec 1921, reproduced in Tradition et Cubisme, Paris (Povolozky) 1927, p.70
In the 1920s, Gleizes was a frequent contributor to La Vie des lettres et des arts, edited by Nicholas Beauduin (1881-1960), friend of the Polish poet Oscar Venceslas de Lubicz Milosz (1877-1939) and, like Milosz, author of a large scale epic poetry with a religious character in the tradition of René Ghil, perhaps the major influence on the writers of the Abbaye de Créteil.
All the sub-academic types [académisants] of the present day claim that they have passed through Cubism ... The artists have pounced on Cubism without any notion of its long term significance. They have only had a rough idea of the procedure and an original presentation of the image. Either they have arranged their panoplies with elements of the analysis of this image, scattering across the canvas little fragments of objects, arranged with a greater or less degree of taste - influence of Braque-Picasso; or they have travestied the form by cutting into it with right angles and roughly squaring it up - influence of the other current which we know ...
Extract No 7, from The Epic - From Immobile Form to Mobile Form
'L'épopée - de la forme immobile à la forme mobile', Le Rouge et le Noir, July 1929. French version of Kubismus, Munich (Bauhausbücher, Verlag Albert Langen), 1928. Reproduced in Puissances du Cubisme, Chambéry (Eds Présence), 1969, pp. 112, 121-2, 133-5. English translation, The Epic - From Immobile Form to Mobile Form, Ampuis, Association des Amis d'Albert Gleizes, 1997 and on the present website here.
In the 1920s, Gleizes was, with Léger and Le Corbusier, one of the few French artists in contact with the international and non-figurative avant garde. In 1925, the year in which his Polish pupil Ynaga Poznansky organised the first attempt to present this international non-figurative art in Paris (in the exhibition L'Art d'Aujourd'hui), the Bauhaus commissioned Gleizes to write an account of Cubism. The book, published in 1928, included 47 illustrations of the work of different artists, including Picasso and Braque, with comments by Gleizes. It formed part of the same series of Bauhausbücher as the Pedagogical Notebooks of Paul Klee, Kandinsky's Point, Line to Plane and The Non-objective World by Malevich. We may note that Gleizes has fully overcome all the reservations he and his fellows had expressed earlier about non-representational art being merely 'decorative'.
I have in front of me a small cutting from an evening newspaper, La Presse, on the subject of the 1910 Salon d'Automne. It gives a good idea of the situation in which the new pictorial tendency, still barely perceptible, found itself: 'The geometrical fallacies of Messrs. Metzinger, Le Fauconnier, and Gleizes'. No sign of any compromise there. Braque and Picasso only showed in Kahnweiler's gallery and we were unaware of them. Robert Delaunay, Metzinger and Le Fauconnier had been noticed at the Salon des Indépendants of that same year, 1910, without a label being fixed on them. Consequently, although much effort has been put into proving the opposite, the word Cubism was not at that time current.
To sum up, here is what seems to me to emerge unquestionably from this pre-war period:
On the one hand painters like Braque and Picasso, to whom we should add Juan Gris, living and travelling apart - already fallen into the hands of the picture dealers. They had passed through the analysis of volume, the analysis of the object, and were beginning to touch the plastic qualities of the flat surface, the material of painting as it is, independent of anything else.
On the other hand, in the breach, engaged in the battle, Jean Metzinger, Le Fauconnier, Fernand Léger and myself - taken up with a research into weight, into density, volume, the dissection of the object, studying the dynamism of lines, beginning to sense the importance of the real nature of the plane.
Robert Delaunay, finally - insufficiently disciplined to linger over such analytical researches, but possessing an exact intuition of what the destiny of Cubism was to be.
The day on which the painter justified himself by his exceptional way of seeing things was the day on which the picture lost its general significance. Under the pressure of the deformations to which it was subjected, and which were becoming ever more eccentric and surprising, it began to drift insensibly into the most abstruse metaphysics. If you want to be convinced you only have to look at the transformations the picture has undergone between the Renaissance and the present day - from Michelangelo, who blows it up out of all proportions to put it on a wall, to Braque and Picasso, who confine it in a narrow frame. We can see the description, what man can see through the windows of his eyes, expressed first of all through a generally agreed convention based on the normal way in which things are perceived. We can then see how it is deformed into a perception that is individual, an appreciation that exists independently of any common measures by which it could be disciplined - in a word, an abstraction.
Braque and Picasso pushed this independence as far as it would go during the first period of Cubism, but, in their case, there is something more than just this movement in a direction that had been fixed since the time of the Renaissance. Their pictures were still deformations of an essentially descriptive and atmospheric base, but, as they reached the limits at once of the break-up of the image and also of the two dimensional geometry which held the work together, they began to touch something of a more substantial nature. They dared to introduce the papiers collés - different materials, sand, ripolin (7), imitation wood and marble, printed letters. This was a real challenge to the Renaissance cast of mind that had not been superseded merely because the external appearances of things were being expressed metaphorically. It was a development that really merited an outburst of indignation because, now, there was every reason to feel that the supremacy of the picture was being threatened. Yet it passed, if not unnoticed, at least unappreciated. Everyone, on the other hand, got worked up over the deformations of the descriptive image, which didn't do anything to compromise the future of painting such as it is conceived as much in the academy as it is by the independents. I would go so far as to say that, even now, people see nothing in Cubism other than these changes in the descriptive element, without being able to imagine what has already been achieved beyond them, on the other side. There, it is the solid ground of painting determined by its technique, form for its own sake, in its compete, real, plastic nature, that counts. But that was, and still is, too simple for minds for whom progress can only occur as a matter of increasing complications.
But, whatever people might say, it was these real elements - papiers collés, sand, imitation wood etc. - that were the truly daring innovation. They compelled the development of an approach that was genuinely plastic and which, dependent as it was on the technical means employed, was inevitably bound to produce a return to the spirit of decorative painting. Builder's decorating, which requires only artisans with no 'artistic' aspirations, is all that remains, because it is indispensable, of the great decorative painting of the past. After the Renaissance, since wall-painting was no longer needed by architecture in its decline, it had to disappear and the little there was of it that was still indispensable was done by ordinary workers who, deprived of the stimulus of any higher values, confined themselves to using only its most rudimentary technical means. What ambitions they had to rise above this level led them to emulate the artist-painters who had been completely divorced from them since the seventeenth century, in descriptive imitation, and so they developed methods for giving an illusory appearance of wood or of marble. That was itself another factor in the degeneration of the housepainter's craft. But, by introducing those modest imitative elements - these materials that were incontestably part of the technique of the craftsmen - into the picture, Braque and Picasso courageously began a work of regeneration (8). They broke with the prejudices that had so long kept the artist and the artisan apart from each other: the framed picture for the salons of a privileged class, large scale decorative painting for the masses.
Metzinger, Delaunay, Léger and myself, more respectful than Braque and Picasso of a drawing that would be generally accessible, less willing to disappear into a metaphysical fog, attached a crucial importance to the verticality of the picture plane ...
Extract No 8, from Robert Delaunay
Robert Delaunay, unpublished manuscript, 1933, pp,12-17
Gleizes' study of Robert Delaunay was written for publication by the group Abstraction-Création in 1933. In the event publication was prevented, apparently through internal quarrels among the group. Gleizes made two unsuccessful attempts to publish revised versions, in 1937 and - after Delaunay's death - in 1945. In a letter written to Gleizes while working on it Delaunay suggests that he give 'the reasons for my antagonism to the traitors - the sowers of confusion [embrouilleurs] like Picasso - and his commercial combination from the beginning [sa combinaison commerciale depuis toujours].' In this context Gleizes might appear to have been comparatively indulgent ...
If, from 1907 to 1913, the painters followed a common impulse, during this period they gave the impression that they were making use of the same methods and relying on the same empirical means [empirismes]. They were seen grouped together. But then they were rapidly separated, and today the initial group survives only in a number of individuals who are for all practical purposes opposed to each other. These individuals have for the most part tried by all possible means to stress the importance of [exalter] their own personal case and they have abandoned the initial idea, trying even to strip it of its human, impersonal importance, heavy with the spiritual anxieties of the whole age.
Here we have to turn to facts and to name names. The fact of Picasso immediately demands attention. Is there a case more disturbing than that of this artist whose exhibition last year with Georges Petit generated simultaneously enthusiasm and disappointment?(9 )What is especially serious about the disappointment is that it came from the young. I have read many articles written by men of the new generations in which the severity of the reproaches comes close even to injustice towards the man whom only yesterday they considered an artist of genius. These young generations formed in the war have known nearly nothing of what happened prior to 1914. They emerged weakened in value and in number out of the carnage in which the classical old age of Western civilisation had tried in vain to infuse into itself new blood. The survivors rose in revolt, they demanded a place in the post-war sun, the old men feared their anger, more simulated than real, they satisfied this vehement demand and the rebels quietened down. There is no lack of examples. So, nothing is less well known to the rising generations than the work of their elders, and I am not just referring to matters concerning the arts but also in literature. With regard to the Cubist movement the blindness is total. All the more - as I said clearly in a study I made for the review Le Rouge et le Noir in 1929 (10), since the key works from 1910 to 1914 are scattered and absolutely nothing has been done since 1918 to try to bring them together and show them honestly without sordid restrictions imposed by economic considerations [combinaisons économiques]. Oh this dictatorship of the economic interest which has subjected everything to its measure and corrupted from their beginnings the finest and most disinterested enthusiasms. Only decadent ages suffer the shame of being led by dealers and gamblers [les marchands et les croupiers]! We are certainly a world coming to its end, even if the fruits of the tree of knowledge still succeed in making people believe in progress and in the future.
The difficulty of getting a clear understanding of Cubism has allowed all possible manoeuvres with a view to reducing it to a simple individual manifestation. Picasso, on whom already in 1914 all the efforts of commercial speculation were concentrated, was the ideal candidate to serve the plans of the galleries. He became, thanks also to the immoderate complicity of his friends, the one who was responsible, and the only justification, for a movement which included the best of a whole generation. There can be no questioning the very great talent of the Spanish painter become a Parisian; the task is to identify in the incoherent confusion of his immense reputation the state of mind he represents. The time requires the truth.
Picasso is a great talent but a small personality [caractère]. Led more than leading, led by his literary friends, by dealers, by his condition as a foreigner transplanted in a soil that was not his by nature, finally by the need to maintain a heavy reputation as a man of genius and an eccentric [fantaisiste]. That is why often, since he cannot carry the weight of Cubism by himself - of Cubism in its past and in its future - he ends up jeering at it, dissociating himself with a witty remark, only to stake his claim on it if it becomes necessary to do so a little later. At the heart of the Picasso affair we quickly discover, if we are able to break free from the noise and the powerful advertising of which he is himself the first victim, the deep disillusionment of a man who has never been able to free himself and consequently has never been able to do what he wanted. Especially a slave to the people who surrounded him, he has always put up with whatever came his way and whatever he saw. Never once has he kicked against the milieu, never once has he taken command of the milieu. And he knows it well because he is very perceptive [fin] and incapable of fooling himself for very long. With the exceptional gifts he possessed, the privilege [chance] of having - one of the first - felt the collapse of the classical spirit, the joy of having initiated this work of the renewal [révalorisation] of form, Picasso should today have been master of a youth that is disturbed, an authority listened to and respected, wise [savante] and able to give good instruction if he had from the start been master of himself, if only he had character. Instead of that this youth condemns him severely to the point of disputing with him even the important contribution which, all the same, he gave them in the best moments of his life.
Picasso was indeed one of the first to have, methodically, in the manner I indicated at the beginning of this study, analysed the dogmatic notion at the basis of the classical credo. After coming across negro sculptures and being so struck by their witness to plastic values [rayonnement plastique] that he tried to snatch from them certain of their rudiments, Picasso works on form, reviewing the existing conception [en revenant à la donnée courante]. That is the great and strong part of the painter's work, that which engages the man through the fact that the problem he addresses is that which will be found everywhere that men question themselves, the meaning they attach to what surrounds them, their responsibility with regard to those surroundings. At first he will pursue this classical form as far as the schema of its principle - geometrical volume - and he will despise the picturesque side of things; then, dissatisfied, he will analyse the image, the unavoidable subject of the classical mode. He will take elements of it, functions that are purely plastic, those that cannot be seen by the uninformed observer, who sees only what is in front of him and is incapable either of remembering or anticipating. With these secret values he will recreate a world that is different from that of the image, an intellectual world which will constitute the whole of the picture. Picasso at that time gave us some truly noble works, marked by the largest intentions, without brilliance, in various shades of barely coloured grey, and at that time there was everything to be hoped from him. I have seen with joy some of the works of this period in this exhibition last year in which one cannot tell what malice or what incompetence had distributed his work in the worst possible way, putting side by side, in an incoherence that was all too obvious, canvasses that contradicted each other and reproached each other. These old works, on the other hand, had preserved all their dignity. To such a degree that the public did not visit them or, if they did pass in front of them, they did not stop. But that is where Picasso was. More so even than in the paintings that followed in which, despite some happy solutions, one feels that his faith is growing stale and that he is more concerned with his own personal justification than with everything that still had to be discovered before a truly new age could open before painting, as before all the other orders of human activity.
But in 1913, Picasso takes up the plane surface of his canvas as the very foundation of the picture. With the taste that is his he realises lovely [savoureuses] works in which known images reappear as silhouettes. But he knows how, in a masterly way, to reconcile geometry and the accidental picturesque side, so we forgive the return of the subject - a little surprising after the canvasses of the previous period. But Picasso is neither behind or in advance of his comrades in the same adventure. If he was truly the first to address the problem of form (which had long been 'in the air', not just since Cézanne but, going back through the course of the nineteenth century, in Delacroix) - and this is far from having been proved despite systematic affirmations - he did not take it very far. His most adaptable of talents enabled him to look like a genius without too much effort; to take advantage, in a way that is often exquisite, of discoveries which did not originate with him; to be perhaps above all an admirable promoter [vulgarisateur] of ideas and principles deriving from men who had less virtuosity, who were less brilliant on the level of savoir-faire, but infinitely more serious and more profound. Picasso nonetheless has the right to claim his share of honours in the volume period of Cubism, in the period of the analysis of images, finally in the period of recognition of the plane. (11) Delaunay would say in the destructive period and in the beginning of the constructive period. So, nothing less; and, similarly, nothing more.
To conclude, Pablo Picasso, painter come from Spain to the Parisian swamp [le marécage parisien], very gifted in the limited field of execution, capable of everything [de toutes les contingences], was never able to see the end of the analytical researches into the classical form which he was one of the very first to engage. Otherwise, how are we to explain what will follow and which is, in a way, the negation of the most beautiful and meaningful part of his work from the human point of view? I certainly would not blame Picasso for having returned to classical drawing if he had done it out of a need to test himself or to fulfil some justifiable experimental demand. But I am obliged to reject such admirable reasons because he gives me proofs that, if they might have had some momentary validity - that is possible - it is not long before they degenerate into the most obvious opportunism. And to understand straightaway that Picasso only returned to classical - academic would be more exact - drawing because in his previous researches he had seen nothing more than facile means to satisfy his taste for fantasy [son tempérament de fantaisiste]. Thanks to these means he cleverly camouflaged the anecdotical subject of the classical mode and, with his real feel for painting, he had no difficulty in astonishing the public. So that, in spite of everything, he has remained in servitude to the classical premise, to such an extent that he registers its degeneration right as far as its very last figure - abstraction. His monumental still lifes are unanswerable as witnesses to this extreme position. That they satisfy the culinary side of painting, nothing could be more true. But today, I repeat, that is not enough. We are at a moment of pathos [un moment pathétique] in the history of humankind, and talent is not sufficient to justify just anything. Picasso has had no suspicion of this: a new state of mind is needed and vigorous principles by which it can be sustained. He does not leave the old spirit and is content to exploit its last resources with verve and brio, but also with a lack of consciousness [avec inconscience aussi]. I say he is content with that, I am wrong. He goes further, and creates even more illusions. His huge reputation, the product of factors that are complex, enables him to act with impunity. At least for the moment. He takes advantage of this to do a series of 'in the manner of ...' paintings - caricatures of the classical masters. In front of a public of snobs and speculators, in front of young people full of respect for big reputations and fond of mayhem [avide de chambardement], he showed his blown-up women [femmes bibendum], his neo-romans, his chaplinesques, his like Le Nain, his school of Ingres, his sub-Matisses, and he finishes, after some forays into the archaic, with Freudianism in space, in volume and in elementary geometry.
It is not for the pleasure of criticising him that I have taken issue with Picasso but to oppose the injustice of which he is already victim at the hands of those who had praised him to the skies. And then, staying with my subject, to show how far he was from having accomplished a revolution in painting. Picasso in his great works - in those of which we who are the admirers are still few in number - addressed the problem with a spirit [envergure] such that it threw into question the exclusive legitimacy of that way of thinking that had been officially maintained ever since the Renaissance. He proclaimed his doubts on the territory of the plastic principles of the painted work [la plastique peinte]; he touched the postulates. And for that we should be unreservedly grateful to him. His persuasive talent brought to the scandalous attitude that other painters had taken by his side a contribution that is invaluable; but that is where his action stops. Starting with a gesture that should necessarily have become a revolution, he corrected himself, made his excuses, and the budding revolutionary completed his act as a reformist and eccentric [fantaisiste]. Instead of rebirth in the spirit, he accepted death in the senses. He was a man of the Renaissance who revolts as he grows old. Renaissance: space, volume, analysis. In sum: stasis [statisme]. Picasso never left the classical mode.
The example of Picasso is sufficient to define what I mean by revolution. If it is said that the whole world today is awaiting a revolution, we must not be mistaken about the meaning of this word and confuse revolution with insurrection and revolt. A revolution is a complete change in the course of events, a total opposition to a direction that has been followed for a time, a natural phenomenon which occurs following a principle that is known and determined [reglé] by periodicity. So the present-day world waiting for a revolution is only waiting for a moment when, its cycle having been fulfilled, it will, in the normal way, enter into a new cycle. Human societies do not find it any easier than individuals to accept the idea of seeing their habits modified so profoundly. So they tend to oppose revolution and, conservative on the whole, they rise up and rebel when things are going badly, hoping to continue to live and to maintain the existing state of affairs which they always consider to be a progress. The revolution comes, despite everything, in its time; it brings back order and imposes it. It sweeps the opposition away. A rebellion can be recognised through the refusal to give up thinking like the milieu against which it has appeared. A revolution can be recognised by the abandoning of the way of thinking of the existing milieu. Picasso was only a rebel because he has always thought with the milieu. That is the difference there is between himself and Delaunay. Delaunay, without knowing it, has truly been revolutionary ...
Extract No 9, from The Creators of Cubism
'Les Créateurs du Cubisme', Sud-Magazine, No 126, 15 avril, 1935. Reprinted in Gleizes: Puissances du Cubisme, pp.181-2
In the thirties, Gleizes abandoned Paris and the regional journal Sud Magazine became the main outlet for his writing. This extract comes from his account of an exhibition organised in Paris by the journal Beaux-Arts. There is a large correspondence in which Léonce Rosenberg, who was acting for Gleizes at the time, keeps him informed as to the struggles between the different Cubist individuals and groups for representation in this exhibition.
Unquestionably it was only with many doubts and hesitations that the researches continued and that, little by little, certainties began to be reached. Among the Cubist painters there were intuitive painters and there were deductive painters. Braque and Picasso can be classed in the first category; they are great intuitives, served by great talents. To their talent, Metzinger and Gris added an admirable sense of deduction. That was why they were the first to lay down solid foundations on which it would be possible to build a lasting edifice. If Braque and Picasso had the intuition of analysis, Robert Delaunay was an intuitive of synthesis. I have often said that in the period that was finished with the war, Delaunay was without doubt the first to glimpse the final end [dénouement] of Cubism. These few examples are enough to show that each played his role in the common work ...
Extract No 10, from Memoirs - Return to France, 1919-26
Souvenirs - retour à la France, 1919-26, unpublished ms, c1942-3, p.9
Gleizes' Souvenirs were written during the war. They are divided into a number of chapters which between them cover most of his life. Only extracts from two sections, dealing with the period 1909-14 and with 1934 have been published. The
manuscript is in the Gleizes archive in the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
Paul Rosenberg had by a contract secured the monopoly on Picasso. Picasso Cubist. Some years pass by. In hiseyes things are not going as he had hoped. Cubist pictures are not doing well. He has lodged Picasso, who has an apartment on the upper floor of the house where Paul Rosenberg has his gallery, in such a way that he has him to hand, dependent on him. He makes the painter feel his disappointments and bad temper. To such a degree that Mela Muter (12) among others tells me one day that she had witnessed the way in which he behaved with Picasso. It is from that moment that Picasso 'evolved' and did the series of those neo-academic overblown women which amazed and were imitated by so many young painters ... [Picasso], prey of the speculators, was at bottom dissatisfied, horrified to have so little freedom, to feel himself the toy of what he despised, to have to adapt to all sorts of external demands, ceaselessly to serve an excessive publicity which prevented him from really exploring in depth what he had suspected by instinct. Rosenberg was not innocent of [étranger aux] the transformations undergone by Picasso, of his attitudes, of his witticisms [boutades].
Extract No 11, from Potentialities of Cubism
Introduction (written in 1944) to Puissances du Cubisme, Editions Présence, Chambéry, 1969.
Potentialities of Cubism was a collection of Gleizes' articles mainly from the 1930s and 1940s. Although Gleizes assembled it during the war it was only eventually published, by Henri Viaud's Editions Présence, in 1969.
No, the works of the Renaissance are not objective. They are spectacular, figurative, and that is something quite different. Neither a normal point of view, that is to say, one corresponding to a generally recognised convention, nor an abnormal point of view that corresponds to something that is singular, of an individual nature, can be called 'objective'. The weirdness or monstrous nature of a distorting mirror does not at all change the principle of a mirror in itself. The works of the Renaissance are subjective just as much as the works of Picasso or those of Braque. What distinguishes them is that the first respect the current way of looking at things [vision courante] in the organisation of the scene [mise en scène] that they present, while the others pretend to an exceptional deformation of the current way of looking at things and an equally certain deformation of the presentation of the subject. The intellectual is, then, essentially the same here and there. But in the sixteenth century he proceeds from the adhesion of a society while in the twentieth century he depends on nothing more than the individual, indeed on a moment of his wandering moods. Nonetheless, it is the intellectual who bears the responsibility for the painted work as much in the case of Raphael as in that of Picasso. Craft is an external [extrinsèque] consideration as much in the one as in the other. It is under the domination of the subject. There is nothing intrinsic in The Disputation of the Holy Sacrament or in The School of Athens - the spirit of the times is unhesitating. In contrast, in the case of Picasso, there is conflict, the same as there is in the spirit of the times which is doubt, uncertainty and contradiction. The intellectual subject does not give way to the object but this latter tries to find ways round it. It is the same with Braque. Hence the doubt and uncertainty of anyone who looks at the works of these painters of very great talent. Are they subjects 'taken out of dustbins' as it has been explained to us (13), or out of drawers in the secret compartments of the subconscious? From the Renaissance to these painters, it is the same state of mind that is dominant, subjective and not objective. The intellectual word, eloquent to convince and to reduce to its service the resources of the most varied crafts, will, sooner or later, rob them of their manhood and they will be without issue [ils tomberont en déshérence]. That is why what there was of the object that had been able to resist the subjective brilliance of the Renaissance had to disappear completely and, once the charm had been broken, we could witness the most miserable of mornings after the feast.
I have already shown what made of two great artists like Picasso and Braque the logical, inevitable conclusions [aboutissements] of Raphael or of Michelangelo. Is there any need to specify the elements in their work which are the cause of the conflict that tears them apart? Who could deny their subjectivism thrust down into [refoulé dans] the hopeless solitude of the individual? What belongs to the object? The introduction of rhythmic lines which, nonetheless, nothing has prepared, which constitute a stylisation rather than supporting order. There are materials which visibly remain in their own nature, relations of colours and tones which destroy the conformist appearance of the subjective drawing. A great deal of talent is necessary to be able to make a work of art in such conditions, so that - despite those elements that recall a mode which can no longer perpetuate itself, and those appeals to another mode which is beginning to revive - everything is not swept away in disorder, and the presence of beauty can still be felt [la beauté témoigne encore de sa présence]. With these two rare artists the drama of our age is played out in a moving way. There is a degree of perception [acuité] and a grandeur that is astonishing. The subject is seen in its total decomposition while the object would like to be reborn following its own law, which has not been recognised. End of one age, first stammerings of another, last attempt at a compromise [concordat] which is impossible. The subjective of the Renaissance can only be saved by renouncing itself, by submitting, willingly or by force, to the authority of the objective, which had command over the Christian Middle Ages and which was realised in its most beautiful expressions in France.
Extract No 12, from Renewed Mentality
'Mentalité renouvelée II', Atelier de la Rose, No 10, June 1953
The Atelier de la Rose was founded in Lyon in 1950 on the initiative of Gleizes' pupil Robert Pouyaud and of the painter René Burlet. This article was written in the context of the 1953 Cubism retrospective at the Musée National d'Art Moderne, which provided the occasion for our extract no 1.
On this subject, I think it is now possible to reply to what, already in 1911, raised a doubt with regard to a little historical fact concerning, one might say, the prologue to what was, in its fullness [par ampleur], to become Cubism. Who, of Picasso or of Braque, influenced the other? People have, for reasons that are specious, wanted it to be Picasso, and they have lulled the most elementary critical spirit to sleep by repeating until we are fed up hearing it [à satiété], and in making it accepted, that the picture Les Demoiselles d'Avignon was at the beginning of the Cubist adventure. Where is there a cube in this painting that is unquestionably Fauve, even Expressionist, and that has difficulty supporting an addition of exotic stylisation stuck on as an afterthought and visibly done in a hurry? By contrast, the only canvas that can really lay claim to this move towards [départ vers] Cubism, recognised later, whether it was intentional or because blocks of stone cut in the shape of cubes happened to appear in the forefront of the landscape the artist was painting, is the Estaque Landscape by Georges Braque .
Before this picture, no work, either of Picasso or of Braque, that shows any indications in favour of Cubism, which only took off [ne prit son essor] as a revolutionary movement when, in Room 41, in the Indépendants of 1911, were gathered together the works of Metzinger, Delaunay, Léger, Le Fauconnier and myself, painters who did not know Picasso and Braque, had never set foot in the Bateau Lavoir and were indifferent to labels and above all to that in which the Vox populi wished them to be clothed. After this landscape of Braque's, L'Estaque, appeared, then we see Picasso crystallising classical drawing. He submits to Braque's influence as he had submitted to many other influences previously. And as he will continue submitting throughout the whole length of his existence. Something, then, that is certain, and it is the facts, the works, that proclaim it: Braque was the first to put a cube, a real trompe l'oeil cube, in the foreground of a picture, and to him belongs the coveted laurels [la palme] for being first off in a race whose purpose was, rather, to be first to arrive at the finishing post.
(1) Fabre: 'Albert Gleizes et l'Abbaye de Créteil', in Briend et al:Albert Gleizes: Le Cubisme en majesté, Barcelona and Lyon, 2001, p.139. She cites Richardson (!) as authority for her view that the reminiscences of Gleizes and Metzinger cannot be trusted. It is also fairly obvious from her article that, although there is indeed a great deal of new and interesting material in the article, she herself only knows Gleizes' Souvenirs - Le Cubisme from the extracts given by Robbins. Back
(2) Fabre, op cit, p.134 Back
(3) In 'Note sur la peinture', Pan (Oct-Nov 1910). English translation in Antliff and Leighten: A Cubism Reader Back
(4) In !914. Picasso waiting in Kahnweiler's for the result of the Peau d'Ours sale at the Hôtel Drouot, where the picture Les Saltimbanques was pushed up to about 16,000 francs ... Note by Gleizes. Gleizes is referring to an event that occurred on the 2nd March, 1914. See the chronology in Rubin: Picasso et Braque, p.398. The figure given there is 11,500 francs. A footnote confirms that this had been planned as a work of speculation by Kahnweiler to push up the prices of Picasso's work. Back
(5) The repetition of the word 'episodic' in this passage is in the original Back
(6) The significance of this seems to me to be obscure but it rather curiously resembles Gleizes' own paintings of Spanish dancers done about the time he was writing. Back
(7) Commercial name for an enamel paint. Back
(8) 'And there should be no mistaking the fact - it was Braque who, because of his origins, was the person really responsible for these very important initiatives. Picasso only borrowed what Braque had lived. What Picasso had lived was, alas, to return in all its glory in those intellectual works which give such pleasure to the literary people and snobs, to whom his truly great works are as inaccessible today as they were in the past. The son of the builder's decorator and the son of the teacher in an art academy have each revealed themselves according to their origins - that is what the proclamations of a publicity machine that has lost all restraint cannot hide from free spirits not yet completely abandoned by their common sense.' - Note by Gleizes. Back
(9) Galeries Georges Petit, Paris, 16 Juin - 30 Juillet, 1932. Back
(11) Gleizes divides the history of Cubism into three phases - Volume (the cube), multiple perspective, respect for the flat surface. The best expression of his argument is in the notes to the illsurtations to Kubismus. Back
(12) Muter, Mela (1876-1967) Polish figurative artist. Largely responsible for introducing Gleizes into Socialist circles after the First World War. Back
(13) Reference to a comment made by Braque, I think to Jean Paulhan, that he found his inspiration in the contents of a rubbish bin. Back