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I had hung some paintings on the hooks [serres] of the Cours-la-Reine (7) in which was expressed very clearly the anxiety not to alter the plane surface of the wall.

(7)   The Salon des Indépendants. I assume he must be referring to the Salon des Indépendants of 1910 though Gleizes in his Souvenirs says it was only in the Salon d'Automne of 1910 that he noticed Metzinger.

It was so far removed from what interested the common run of painters that I did not expect my efforts to be understood or even remarked. I already knew that to be appreciated by one's peers, one had to regulate one's star according to theirs and to hang back by at least half a century. Those who noticed my paintings indicated by a light shaking of the head that they were to be classed among those odd productions that the Salon des Artistes Indépendants accepted with irritation and for the sole reason that the statutes of the Society prevented them from refusing them.

So this young fellow-painter surprised me joyously with his spontaneous enthusiasm.

Albert Gleizes did not know Montmartre, (8) had never seen anything of Picasso or Juan Gris, never heard Maurice Princet construct an infinite number of different spaces for the use of painters, but he described to me the absurdity of the museums in which mournful, extravagantly three dimensional crowds threaten to crush the visitor by jumping out of their frames.

(8)   Gleizes was born in Montmartre. He went to school there and worked as an apprentice in his father's workshop which was also in Montmartre, but this. of course, was a very different Montmartre from the one Metzinger knew.

"What madman, or what clever-dick with the instincts of a counterfeiter was the first to paint a sphere in trompe l'oeil on a surface that is vertical and rigorously flat! And that's what they teach at the Beaux-Arts! How could such idiocies ever have survived the verdict of Pascal?" (9)

(9)    Metzinger, or Gleizes,  may have in mind Pascal's judgment: 'What vanity painting is which invites us to admire the resemblance of things we would not admire in the originals' or, more relevant to the specific point about perspective:  'So with pictures seen from too far or too near; there is but one indivisible point which is the true place where from to look at them: the rest are too near, too far, too high or too low. Perspective determines that point in the art of painting. But who shall determine it in truth and morality?'

That was how, in 1906, (10) Albert Gleizes was feeling his way towards Cubism and condemned in advance those who never saw anything in it other than a shibboleth [mot d'ordre]. It was still nothing more than a need he felt, the need not for an intellectual art but for an art that would be something other than a systematic absurdity. Quite clearly nature and the painting make up two different worlds which have nothing in common, and what is quite in its place in the one cannot also be in its place in the other.

(10)   sic! This is almost certainly a mistake in the typing. Robbins suggests it is a mistake for 1909, I would suggest 1910.

The excuse that the painters were documenting reality was becoming ridiculous. Photographers and film makers went far beyond them. Already it could be said that a good portrait led one to think about the painter not the model.

Gleizes knew all that, which was dangerous to say at the time; he proclaimed it out loud in that place where the whole artistic population of the time was gathered together.

Some days later, in his house in Courbevoie, he showed me what he had renounced to follow his new ideas.

They were excellent landscapes in that post-impressionist style which would later suffice the most mediocre painters for the enjoyment of many happy years. There were those portraits and compositions in which particularly marked square and rectangular planes showed the influence of Cézanne.

Gleizes was only trying to reduce the curvature of natural volumes to adapt them more naturally and rigorously to the surface of the painting, a surface which he believed to be continuous with the wall and, for all practical purposes, with no curvature at all.

This painting, which was to be taken up by La Fresnaye and some others, remained faithful to all the classical and realistic conventions that were going. Gleizes could not have stayed there for very long. 

He revealed to me his latest works, those that assure his existence in time [qui l'assurent dans le temps].

The canvas on its wooden stretcher before the first stroke of the brush; the frame which was to isolate it and to justify the more or less thick and diversified coloured coating it would receive, these were the elements that would enable Gleizes to fulfil himself. They are, moreover, the only real things the painter meets while exercising his art. It was enough for him [Gleizes] to practise on the rectangle he had before him several very simple operations in elementary geometry to enable a rhythm, a poetic means of expression, to appear. (11)  Such a method obliged its inventor to seize the idea of the picture, something he could not have done without such help [une telle méthode obligeait son inventeur à saisir l'idée d'un tableau ce qu'il n'aurait pu sans secours]. In fact, he enjoyed, or suffered from, a spiritual abundance that left him with no choice in the matter. Of course it could only work for him alone. I didn't like to tell him. Already his religious generosity was leading him towards proselytism. He dreamed of forming pupils ...

(11)   Metzinger seems here to be describing Gleizes' method of 'translation and rotation', which he developed - and taught - in the 1920s.

I had measured the difference that separated art prior to 1900 from the art which I felt was being born. I knew that all instruction was at an end. (12) The age of personal expression had finally begun. The value of an artist was no longer to be judged by the finish of his execution, or by the analogies his work suggested with such-and-such an archetype. It would be judged – exclusively – by what distinguished this artist from all the others. The age of the master and pupil was finally over; I could see about me only a handful of creators and whole colonies of monkeys. But I could not ask Gleizes to see it that way. Happily, nothing of his social or mystical opinions remained when he was engaged in the work of painting. The work of reconciling an oval and a lozenge, a yellow and a blue, prevailed and saved him.

(12) Metzinger is being a little bit cheeky here. Gleizes never set up formally as a teacher. Metzinger on the other hand taught during the pre-war period in the Académie de la Palette (where through his pupil Liubov Popova he was to have a considerable influence on the thinking of the Russian avant garde) and in the Académie Arenius and Académie de la Grande Chamière. In 1950 he took up a teaching role in the Académie Frochot. See the excellent entry on Metzinger in Wikipedia.

We often walked along the avenue with a military name that separated Courbevoie from Puteaux. Gleizes brought me to the Duchamp-Villon brothers. In that peaceful garden and that home with a smiling welcome appeared, some years before the sinister date of 1914, those forms which fifty years later people still dare to present as being new! 

We often went back there and soon we were passing our Sunday afternoons, not trying to come to agreement over the new aesthetics, but playing at football or at archery.

Only very rarely did the sculptor Raymond Duchamp-Villon show us his works in which, already, previously unknown ways of working on stone for the purpose of expression were beginning to appear. Some years later, death, alas, would prevent him from developing them and deriving from them the success he deserved. Yes, painting has to give up its habit of behaving like a counterfeiter! Photographers and film makers give the crowd the sort of documentary reality they want and they do not, if they have any sense, inflict on them those artistic pretensions which usually only have the effect of annoying them.

Let the image become what it is: something in itself perfectly useless but suitable for the diversion of a small number of people of a peculiar disposition, and even capable of giving them a very profound joy.

For the image possesses qualities which, under certain circumstances, can make it much more interesting than the object which inspired it. The portrait of a commonplace person can astound us with an air of distinction, reminding us that the best portrait is that which resembles the painter, not the model.

The image may be inexact, vaguely allusive, poetic, but, insofar as it makes up a painting, it corresponds to that condition the forgetting of which led to the decline of classical painting [les classiques]

That condition is to be a surface. It was respected up to the fifteenth century by all those who had been enlightened by the East; it was violated in Europe from the beginning of the Renaissance. (13)

(13)   The syntax is a little obscure. 'Cette condition, c'est d'etre une surface respectée jusqu'au XVe siècle par tous ceux qu'avaient éclairés l'Orient, elle fut violée en Europe, dès le début de la Renaissance.'

Exaggerating reliefs and depths, the painters struggled to create an absurd, theatrical space in which two sides of a pathway would come together and prevent the traveller from going any further; the circular opening of a vase was reduced to a simple straight line; and a blessing was given to all the imperfections of our visual mechanism, all with the infantile aim of adding a supplementary dimension to what, since the time of the original Chaos, only possesses two.

We could not think of going back to the symbolic measures of the ancients and the primitives. Such cheap magician's tricks did not appeal to us.

Whether it is Juan Gris taking objects apart, Picasso replacing them with objects of his own invention, or another who replaces conical perspective by a system based on the relations between perpendiculars, all that only goes to show that Cubism was not at all born out of an authoritative theory [mot d'ordre]; that it only marked among a few painters the will to be finished with an art that never ought to have survived the condemnation pronounced upon it by Pascal. (14)

(14)  See fn 9 above

We had noticed that a painting of the 'Fauve' school placed beside a classical painting turns it into a sort of coloured drawing. Personally, that didn't surprise me in the slightest. I knew that colour and form belong to two different worlds and considered that the Fauves were right not to bind them together as tightly as the classical painters did. I paint first, then I do my drawing, Raoul Dufy told me when I passed my impressions on to him. This entirely intuitive dissociation foreshadowed, more perhaps than Cézanne or black African art, not just Cubism but all the painting that followed afterward. 

In fact it is a stupidity, Maurice Princet told me in the presence of Juan Gris, to claim to be able to bring together in a single system of relations, colour, which is a sensation that only needs to be received, and form which is an organisation that has to be understood; (15) and, introducing us to the non-Euclidean geometries, he urged us to create a geometry for painters.

(15)   'C'est en effet une sottise me déclarait Maurice Princet devant Juan Gris, que de prétendre réunir en un seul système de relations la couleur qui est une sensation et la forme qui est une organisation que vous n'avez qu'a recevoir et que vous devez comprendre ...' Note that Du "Cubisme" says the opposite. After considering colour and form separately, it declares them to be in fact inseparable.

We could not do it in the way he meant. But from the rue Lamarck to the rue Ravignan, the attempt [prétention] to imitate an orb on a vertical plane, or to indicate by a horizontal straight line the circular hole of a vase placed at the height of the eyes was considered as the artifice of an illusionistic trickery that belonged to another age.

Cubism was born.