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Notebook

Notebook, 1993-

APPROACHES - In The Words Of . . . .

From: Ferrier, Jean-Louis, Director and Yann le Pichon, Walter D. Glanze [English Translation]. Art of Our Century, The Chronicle of Western Art, 1900 to the Present. New York: Prentice-Hall Editions. 1988.

Albert Gleizes and
Jean Metzinger

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Objects are Formed in The Mind
1912 - Writings and Theories

Four years after its birth, Cubism has found its first theoreticians. They are two painters, Albert Gleizes, thirty-one years old, and Jean Metzinger, twenty-nine years old. Braque likes to say that Picasso and he shared "thoughts." Here, to the contrary, Cubism is analyzed, explained, legitimized. As if it were a matter of convincing the public and the critics who have remained hostile. Even if Gleizes and Metzinger are not themselves the founders of the new movement, their work is of immediate interest, as we can see from the following excerpt.

There is nothing real outside of us, there is nothing real except the coincidence of a feeling and an individual mental direction. We are not likely to doubt the existence of the objects that impress our senses. But we can not be certain about the images they make appear in our mind.

So we are surprised when well-meaning critics explain the remarkable difference between the shapes attributed to nature and those of contemporary painting through the will to represent things not as they appear but as they are. How are they? According to these critics, the object has an absolute and essential shape, and in order to free this shape we would eliminate the traditional light and shade and perspective. What simplicity! An object does not have one absolute shape, it has several, it has as many as it has planes in a range of meaning. The one dealt with by these writers adapts itself, as if by miracle, to geometrical forms. Geometry is a science, painting is an art. The geometer measure, the painter relishes. The Absolute of the one is inevitably the relative of the other. Too bad if logic is offended. Does logic ever prevent wine from having different degrees of perfection in the chemist's test tube and in the drinker's glass?

We laugh out loud when we think of all the novices who expiate their literal understanding of the remarks of a Cubist and their faith in absolute truth by laboriously placing side by side the six faces of a cube and both ears of a model seen in profile.

Does it follow that we should, like the Impressionists, rely on sensitivity only? By no means. We are seeking the essential, but we are seeking it in our personality and not in the kind of meticulous eternity that mathematicians and philosophers may have planned . . .

It is not surprising that those who are strangers to painting do not immediately share our assurance; but that they get irritated does not make sense. Should the painter do his work backward, to satisfy them and give back to objects the ordinary appearance that he is destined to strip away?

Because the object is truly transubstantiated, even the most experienced eye has difficulty discovering it, and a great charm results. The picture that reveals itself only slowly seems to wait to be questioned--almost as though it reserved an infinity of answers to an infinity of questions.

Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger, About Cubism

[An Excerpt From: Ferrier, Jean-Louis, Director and Yann le Pichon, Walter D. Glanze [English Translation]. Art of Our Century, The Chronicle of Western Art, 1900 to the Present. New York: Prentice-Hall Editions. 1988. p. 133]






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