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In 1920, about the time that Denis was establishing his Ateliers d'Art Sacré, Paul Sérusier published his short essay, ABC of Painting, which Denis was to republish in 1942 together with his life of Sérusier. The ABC argued for the use of mathematical schema similar to Lenz's except that the main emphasis was on colour. Such ideas were very much in the air at the time, associated in particular with artists grouped round Léonce Rosenberg's Galerie de l'Effort Moderne, artists who had passed through the experience of Cubism.

Modern reconstruction of a room in the Galerie de l'Effort Moderne in the exhibition 'Frieze Masters., Simon Dickonson Galleries, Regent's Park, London, 2015

This was in my view a moment at which principles that could have been useful for the development of a hieratic art were being developed by painters who at the time had little thought of an engagement with the church:

Amedée Ozenfant: Still Life, c1922

Jean Metzinger: Carafe, c1918

Albert Gleizes: Composition, 1921

But the Galerie de l'Effort Moderne also included the former Italian Futurist, Gino Severini, who had theorised a return to early Renaissance classicism and the use of a mathematically based aesthetic in his study Du Cubisme au classicisme. (23) Severini, admired and supported by the highly regarded Thomist philosopher Jacques Maritain, teamed up with the Swiss based Compagnie de Saint-Luc, created in 1919 by the painter Alexandre Cingria, with much the same intentions, providing first class decoration for churches, as Denis, though they seem to have been much more successful in securing commissions in Switzerland and Italy than Denis was in France. (24)

(23) Gino Severin: Du Cubisme au Classicisme – esthétique du compas et du nombre, Jacques Povolozky, Paris 1921. English translation, From Cubism to Classicism, translated by Peter Brooke, together with Albert Gleizes: Painting and its Laws, Francis Boutle publishers, London, 2000.

(24) See the very useful account in Francesco Mazzaferro: Gino Severini and the Sacred Art in a European Context: The Influence of Cennini’s 'Book of the Art'. Accessible at

Gino Severini: The Last Supper, La Roche, fresco in the parish church, 1927

Whether Severini succeeded in producing a convincing hieratic image is another matter.