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... and JUAN GRIS

I often met a young cartoonist, a compatriot of Picasso's, who signed some very sharp drawings in the Assiette au Buerre under the name Juan Gris.

We would shake hands when we passed each other and sometimes exchanged a few words and one day he stopped me to say that he was worried. He had been to see Max Jacob and he had found him in an unusual, alarming state. He pressed me to go there.

I pushed open the door, which was only ever closed when he was making love, and the master of the house greeted me in his shirt sleeves [en chemise], transfigured.

Pointing out to me the points of light that can be found on the humblest objects in glass, in china, in metal, he said:

"Do you see those stars?"

And on my indicating agreement he cried:

"Ah. You. You see them! Juan Gris who has just left didn't see them, he didn't want to see them. Well! Then its with you that I shall share my secret.

"You know that for the past few days there has been a series of inexplicable noises in my room. The simple souls say they are due to disturbances in the waterpipes. I usually listen to the simple souls but for once they were wrong. The pipes haven't received the gift of language ... but these noises were words. I heard: 'Wait! wait! He will come, He is coming!' It isn't that my hearing is sharper than that of the concierge or that of the good fellow from the Auvergne, my neighbour on the left who every day puts aside for me in friendship a portion of the chipped potatoes that he dispenses throughout the world - it is that my hearing is better than theirs at making out the form of words. This morning the language of the waterpipes was so clear that I had no more doubt. Angels were using them to speak to me. I was lying stretched out on my bed with my eyes closed when they cried: 'He is here'. I jumped out of my bed to fall again upon my knees. He was standing just where you are, Metzinger! In a very gentle voice He said to me: "You did not recognise Me because they always show Me with My cross. I had to leave it in the courtyard. It is too big for your room and your latest sins have made it even heavier. Sort yourself out, you little creep.' I was overcome with a sadness I could not bear and which He certainly felt since He put His hand on my forehead. At that moment Juan Gris came in - who did not see the stars. You, you see them: two on the washbasin, one on the water-jug and others over there, others everywhere."

"The heavens have come into your room. You must be very happy."

Juan Gris was waiting for me on the terrace of the 'Ami Emile'. I relieved him of his anxiety. I showed him that a perfect state of mental health can live together with a belief even if that belief does not seem to us to be very well founded; all it needs is that it should be necessary to an organisation, and that was indeed the case.

His quick intelligence accepted this all the more readily because he had himself just begun to rebuild his life on the basis of a belief. He wanted to paint, and he believed in the painting he was going to do, he believed in it so strongly that, penniless as he was, he had just broken with the papers that enabled him to live in order to devote himself to it entirely. Montmartre was the citadel [colline] of faith.


The growing fame of Apollinaire and of Picasso was beginning to attract to Montmartre a certain number of those individuals who sometimes, without themselves deriving any benefit, for the mere sake of seeming to be well-informed, hang around new talent. They claim to be able to understand and to define it much more clearly than the poet or painter himself, and they don't fall short of claiming that they themselves have inspired them. Picasso had no difficulty in putting up with them. To the proverb which advises us not to disagree with madmen he would add "or idiots".

I know that the idiocies he heard or read for fifty years, whether they were to do with himself or with his painting, never directly affected either the one or the other; but an idiocy that lasts becomes a truth, so strong that one no longer dares to bring it into dispute.

That is why Gleizes and I, when we wrote Du "Cubisme", gave way to the general opinion and allowed Cézanne to be put at the origin of this painting, In fact, Cézanne's art is quite the opposite.

Apollinaire himself sometimes got very angry. I remember a gathering in a café, bld de Clichy, where two young literary critics were insisting that he was a disciple of Rimbaud's.

They tortured the vocabulary and syntax of the two poets to try to give a shadow of verisimilitude to this idiocy.

Exasperated, Guillaume, under a false pretext slipped into his ear, unleashed against them the violence of a herculean young actor who was one of our friends. The two bores were shown the way to the nearest pharmacy.

Unfortunately, their conqueror got into difficulties over it and never forgave the instigator of the fight for having lied to him.



Picasso was right. Nothing is more natural than that an artist should be opposed to any material transformation of his work; but let him not think that, when it is seen by a hundred persons, he can prevent it from being a hundred times different. As for truth and error, only simpletons or pedants can attach any importance to it. Art belongs to the domain of the unreal and it is only when people try to make a reality of it that it falls apart.

However, I hardly had any interest left in the Neo-Impressionists, and it was not for his manner of dividing his tones that I continued to enjoy the talent of Seurat. To want, through the optical mix, to struggle with the light of day is as childish as painting cherries in such a way as to fool the birds. They aren't fooled for very long and the painter of olden times who indulged himself in this sort of game was only launching the business of papier-mâché fruit and sweety cigarettes. I know most people don't look for anything else in a picture; and  that the ability to take delight in painting, putting aside everything other than the pure effect of colours and forms, remains the privilege of a very small number.

I wanted an art that was faithful to itself [loyal] and would have nothing to do with the business of creating illusions. I dreamed of painting glasses from which no-one would ever think of drinking, beaches that would be quite unsuitable for bathing, nudes who would be definitively chaste. I wanted an art which in the first place would appear as a representation of the impossible.

It should be said that such an art would be neither more false nor more true than classical art. I have before me a reproduction of David's Rape of the Sabines. What could be more of a lie, more crudely erroneous than those girls whose hair is in such careful disarray, and those warriors who prepare to throw or to receive a javelin that will never leave the painted canvas. There is in all that nothing but a purely manual virtuosity in the service of the most gross sort of illusionistic trickery. And what I am saying about the Sabines applies to hundreds, to thousands of famous paintings.