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Jean Metzinger

I would not like to close this book without expressing the pleasure I have felt in finding myself once again in agreement with Albert Gleizes. No matter how different our personal views might be today, we have felt no need to alter anything in our text; time has shown that we were right: what we announced thirty four years ago has been verified every day on the more and more welcoming walls of the exhibition rooms. Even our own divergence we foresaw.

Did we not, already, envisage two possibilities: a painting "of pure effusion;" a "new realism?"

The first is now called abstract or non-figurative painting; the second has kept the name of Cubism.

Abstract painting is in full effervescence, the number of its practitioners and admirers never stops growing. It varies according to the different temperaments and it is absurd to talk about an abstract academicism. Sometimes full of respect for the plane surface of the wall, dedicated to an architecture which will, perhaps, manifest itself, it rises through the hierarchy of its elements to yet unsullied heights [sur de vierges hauteurs]. The absence of any apparent subject does not prevent us from seeing the connection with the great art of the Middle Ages. Sometimes it borrows from flowers, from insects, from minerals and even from the world that is revealed by the microscope, a fascinating [passionnante] morphology; it leans towards the irrational apparitions which dazzle us when we are about to sleep, or puts before our eyes certain analogies barely to be seized by the consciousness [qui ne font que frôler la conscience]. Non-figurative art offers itself as a sure instrument to all who wish to explore the human field; I only regret that sometimes it serves to exalt [à la mise en valeur des] those who wish to take advantage of chance, those who put arbitrary brush strokes that may be more or less amusing into frames, and those "musicalists" who will never learn that a musical emotion is expressed in sound, and the only relations there is between sounds and colours is a purely literary one. (1)

(1) The term 'musicalism' is particularly associated with the painter Henry Valensi who, though rarely acknowledged as such, was one of the first to develop a theory of non-representational art.

Cubism, on the other hand, whose influence reaches even to its worst enemies, has never ceased since 1912, faithful to itself, to be attached in a very profound manner, to the real.

"If the word surrealism had not been taken as the designation of a different movement, I think", Picasso said to me recently, "that it would define my painting." Cubism in fact goes beyond the external thing to enclose it and to seize it better. It is no longer enough to look at the model, the painter must think it. He brings it into a space that is at once spiritual and plastic, about which it is not entirely frivolous to talk about the fourth dimension. There, proportions become qualities; sensations are no longer tied to a rigid system of axes and it is their expressive value alone that determines the order in which they are shown. The situation of the different parts of a figure, a still life, a landscape, no longer depends on that of the other parts; it depends on their situation in the mind of the artist, on their true situation. When we think of a face, a town, do we know if we see it full face or in profile? Are we worried about the exact topography? And yet the image of this face, the vision of this town are, for the one, a better likeness than the best portrait and, for the other, fuller than one hundred postcards, or one hundred paintings done - with sincerity - under the ancient parasol. Outside science and its instruments, the object, a group of sensations, can only be seized in its entirety by memory or by desire. It is to the representation of the internal reality, the only one that counts from the point of view of art, that Cubism is attached.

It is not at all without precedent. To see them, look beyond the great virtuosi of appearance given us by the sixteenth century. The Primitives, the Archaics, give us many examples of this free, authentic and poetic possession of the world. I have on my wall a Byzantine icon - Christ's face is formed from three heads put together!

It goes without saying that that is incompatible with any spirit of didacticism. The painting cannot be capable of total explanation since what it represents is never totally explicit. Cubism has to beware of becoming descriptive, just as non-figurative art must beware of an opacity which will not allow the author's feeling [sentiment] to show through.

Abstract or Cubist, it is obviously the painting of our own age that must touch us the most. I know its faults. Canvasses cobbled together, an unintentionally bad organisation in the composition, pointless violence - are they, on the whole, more irritating than the theatrical perspective, the artificial lighting, the clichéd [conventionnelle] and glossy [glacée] technique of certain works which we have been told over the past two or three centuries had to be admired? I don't think so. I think that those who have no feeling for the painting of the present time have no feeling for any painting. Their devotion to the 'old masters' is only a sort of hypnosis imposed by education or the family. And those painters who cannot make a stroke without first of all going to consult a 'master' in the nearest museum would do better to go and consult a psycho-analyst. The museum is for them a substitute for the paternal roof, and the 'master' for the father. They are suffering from an illness.

A man whose spirit is open, whose sensibility is normal and who knows how to enjoy the taste of painting will enjoy it wherever it is to be found, whether in a jam jar by Juan Gris or in a peach by Chardin.