Back to Du "Cubisme" index
Back to Introduction index


(a) Mark Antliff: Inventing Bergson 

There has, in recent years, following the impulse given by Daniel Robbins, been a great improvement in the historiography of Cubism. It is now generally recognised that Cubism was not simply something 'invented' by Picasso and understood to a greater or lesser degree by a host of 'followers'; that painters such as Delaunay, Gleizes, Metzinger had their own distinct concerns and cannot be judged on the basis of criteria derived from Picasso and Braque. Put very crudely, Kahnweiler tried to inhibit any notion that the Puteaux or Salon Cubists were to be taken seriously; but of late these other Cubists have been taken very seriously indeed. An enormous amount has been written about them. 

This development has, however, been accompanied by a shift of emphasis away from the nature and quality of the painting to the social and political ramifications of the artists' ideas, and their situation in relation to the general culture and intellectual currents of the time. It still has not tackled what I regard as the real, important achievement of Cubism - the development of a new esemplastic order independent of the perspective mechanism - an achievement that implies a change in attitude with wideranging implications for our ways of understanding the world. 

The outstanding representative of the new school, at least so far as it concerns On "Cubism", is Mark Antliff. At the end of his book, Inventing Bergson, he gives a brief account of his own personal reasons for undertaking the project: 

'My overarching agenda in writing this book has been to historicize avant-garde conceptions of space and time by treating them as categories bound up with the philosophical and political landscape of pre-World War I Paris ...' (p.168) 

Inventing Bergson, then, takes Cubism as an event in the history of ideas - philosophical and political ideas rather than ideas specifically related to the problems of pictorial construction. The emphasis is on the subjects represented in the paintings. The pictorial means are of interest mainly as the means used to express an essentially non-pictorial idea. Hence the discussion between Antliff and another leading representative of the school, David Cottington, as to whether Gleizes's Town and River is simply an expression of nostalgia for the rural past (the town is dominated by a church) or whether the presence of a metal bridge signifies a reconciliation with modernity. 

I am not suggesting that such a discussion is irrelevant to the painters' concerns at the time, only that something more important was taking place and that Gleizes at least was aware of it. The emphasis in his writings is on the pictorial means not on the subject. He still regards the subject as necessary but it is a necessary pretext for the act of painting, not the end he is aiming at (Metzinger's approach, as we shall see shortly, was a little different). 

(b) What was the 'rhythm of the Greeks'? 

But before going on to consider Antliff's main themes - the influence of Bergson and the articulation in Gleizes' work of a particular nationalist/racial ideology - I would like to address an ancillary question that may relate to the previous discussion on geometry. 

Antliff's starting point is a debate which took place in the circles of the right wing French Nationalist and antisemitic movement, Action Française. The founder of Action Française, Charles Maurras, saw France as eminently embodying a Latin culture characterised by clarity, rationality and order. These he saw as being characteristic of the Latin mind, so France at its best was a continuation of the values of Roman civilisation at its best. The high point of French civilisation was the absolute monarchy of the seventeenth century, characterised by a rationalist mathematical philosophy and by classicism in all the arts - consciously looking, in the case of poetry, to Greco-Roman models. 

This ideal, however, was challenged within Action Française by a group who favoured a more irrational, 'intuitive', myth-based approach. They supported modern tendencies in the arts, notably Symbolism, and were enthusiastic about the teaching of Henri Bergson. Some of the supporters of Cubism were aware of this dispute and they, and some of the Cubists themselves, used terms that can be identified as Bergsonian. Therefore, Antliff argues, this type of Cubism can be regarded as itself 'Bergsonian' and treated as a participant in the debate that had been occurring within the ranks of Action Française

He observes, however, that in their earliest writings - Metzinger's A Note on Painting (November 1910) and Gleizes' essay on Metzinger (September 1911), the painters seem to locate Cubism within a Greco-Roman classical tradition. He interprets this as part of a strategy, formulated by their friend and ally Joseph Billiet, editor of L'Art libre in Lyon, to appropriate classicism to the Bergsonian side of the debate through the argument, which was indeed used by the painters, that an art is not classical if it is not also true to its own age. (51) Gleizes, he suggests, developed away from this classicism towards an emphasis on the 'Gothic' Middle Ages and a commitment to a racial ideology that was Celtic and anti-Latin.

51   Antliff leaves us with the impression that Billiet (1886-1957) is an Action Francaise sympathiser and therefore a proto-fascist. Whatever he may have been in 1910-11, however, he was to become one of the leading wartime pacifist poets, and later, as a gallery owner, he supported the work of the great Socialist wood engraver, Frans Masereel. He joined the French Communist Party in 1934. See the discussion in Goldberg: En l'honneur de la juste parole, p.74 et seq. 

The passage in A Note on Painting runs as follows: 

'Is there a work among the most modern in painting or in sculpture that does not, secretly, submit to the rhythm of the Greeks? 

'Nothing, from the primitives to Cézanne, has been able to break away definitively from the chain of variations that connects us to the hellenic theme. These days I see yesterday's rebels prostrating themselves unthinkingly in front of the bas-relief in Eleusis. Goths, Romantics, Impressionists, the old measure has triumphed over your admirable departures from rhythm [arythmés]; but your labour was not in vain. It has established in us the presence of another rhythm. 

'The Greeks invented the human form for us. It is up to us to invent it again for others. 

'This is not a matter of a 'partial' movement that has to do with known liberties, liberties of interpretation, of transposition etc. These are half measures! What we need is a total emancipation.'  

Far from being an affirmation of classical values, the passage is advocating a 'total emancipation' from 'the rhythm of the Greeks' and the pursuit of 'another rhythm' that was prefigured, though not achieved, by the 'Goths, Romantics, Impressionists.' The article ends by hoping that 'Aphrodite, the Venus we find in the museums, the archetype of the perfection of form' - i.e. classicism - 'will go off and assume her proper place somewhere very far from us in some Platonist hierarchy'. Nothing is said about Latin culture. 

The passage in Gleizes (Jean Metzinger, 1911) is a response to this: 

'Did he [Metzinger] not write that we were dependent exclusively on principles invented by the Greeks; and that the researches of a modern artist should, by contrast, envisage the creation of plastic signs that would enrich the domain of our perceptions?' 

Gleizes too is saying that we are totally dependent on the Greeks and that 'by contrast' the modern artist has to develop plastic signs that will develop our perceptions beyond the Greek 'mould type'. He goes on to say, however,  that the Graeco-Roman traditions and forms are so solidly rooted in us that this will be difficult. He outlines a theory of perception which is found again in On "Cubism" - that we can only make sense of what we see because we can compare it with the mould type. In our case the mould type is Graeco-Roman. There are other mould types - Hindu, Chinese, Egyptian, Negro - but they are useless to us, dangerous temptations. Gleizes is NOT saying that they are in themselves bad or inferior; but we can only develop in relation to what has gone before in our own culture. The end is still to break free of the Greek mould-type. This is very far from being a glorification of the Latin tradition. 

It does, however, pose the question: what is meant by 'the Greek rhythm'? Since the Cubist debate turns on the question of perspective, one might think this is what Metzinger had in mind. And looking at it with eyes that are developing the ability to see esemplastically (the capacity that was developed in the Cubist era but has since been lost, largely as a consequence of photography), it is reasonable to interpret perspective, which imposes certain regularly repeated deformations on the objects in the painting, as a sort of rhythm. One must assume, however, that Metzinger knew the Greeks did not in fact use perspective. In which case he may be referring simply to the Greek idea of human beauty - 'Aphrodite, the Venus we find in the museums, the archetype of the perfection of form'. This too, since it is a matter of proportions, could be seen as a 'rhythm'; and it would seem to be confirmed in the last paragraph which is all on the theme of different ways of understanding female beauty. 

There is, however, another possibility which I find very tempting though I am in no position to insist on it. This is that he is thinking of the Golden Section and perhaps in particular of the Canon of proportions worked out by the German Benedictine monk Desiderius Lenz, author of The Aesthetic of Beuron, translated into French and published by Paul Sérusier in 1905. Since Lenz's canon was primarily intended as a means of realising an ideal of human beauty - the beauty of Man at the original creation - the two interpretations are not mutually exclusive and the word 'rhythm' seems to fit the Lenz interpretation more easily. (52)

52   I discuss the possible relation between Cubism and the Beuron school in my afterword to Lenz: The Aesthetic of Beuron. A similar case is advanced in Escholier: La Peinture Française au XXe siècle, p.14. It is, as we might expect, attacked vigorously in Kahnweiler: Juan Gris, pp.184-5. 

Lenz saw his canon as Egyptian in origin but he argued that it had been adopted by the Greeks and thus provided the basis for Greek classical form. The secret of it - the underlying mathematics - had since been lost but, without being understood, it continues, Lenz argues, to inform our idea of beauty, we continue to copy its external appearances. 

Metzinger tells us in Cubism was Born that he arrived in Paris already convinced that the secret of art lay in relations that could be expressed numerically and that it was because it appeared to be a mathematical art that he followed Neo-Impressionism. With such ideas in his head it is impossible that he would not have been interested in The Aesthetic of Beuron. The book itself only talks in very general terms but if he had followed the matter further and talked to Sérusier or his pupils who, as we have already noted, included Roger de la Fresnaye, he would have learned that the proportions of the human body can be expressed in the form of a network of interlocking geometrical shapes; and that differently proportioned rectangles (the 'root rectangles') have their own powerful esemplastic properties. Lenz's system resembles in many ways the 'dynamic symmetry' that was developed in America by Jay Hambidge in the 1920s and, also in the 1920s, the geometrical principles celebrated by Amédée Ozenfant and Charles Edouard Jeanneret in the pages of L'Esprit Nouveau. (53)

53   Metzinger's 1916 letters to Gleizes indicate that he disliked Ozenfant very much but was nonetheless in close contact with him. Metzinger's interest in non-Euclidean geometry (though, as is usually the case with polemical attacks on Metzinger, he is not mentioned by name) is ridiculed in Ozenfant and Jeanneret's book After Cubism.

 In his transitional 'Fauve' period between Neo-Impressionism and Cubism, Metzinger's paintings do bear some resemblance to those of Sérusier. But A Note on Painting, which is the manifesto of his most Picasso-like period, rejects this tendency radically and in terms not dissimilar to those later used by Kahnweiler: 

'Painters, and nothing other than painters, it isn't their business to cast light on spiritual realities [ils n'enluminent pas les noumènes] after the manner of the all too brightly lit 'neo-primitives' - they do not believe in the stability of any system, even if it calls itself classical art ... If they condemn the deeply irritating absurdity of the theorists of 'feeling', they are careful not to draw painting into the speculations of an approach that is purely decorative.'   


'Independently of the deformations of the ignorant, or of stylisations that are frigid, form - which has for too many centuries been treated simply as the inanimate support for colour - is once again recovering its rights to life, to instability. To find in the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Chinese, what we need to respond to our modern desires, that is certainly a great admission of impotence!'  

Gleizes' article suggests, however, that having rejected the Greek rhythm, 'the old measure', Metzinger had decided that it could not be done away with altogether; that it was so much a part of us that it had to be taken into account. I have suggested that this refers to the relatively conventional figuration of Tea-time, which is the manifesto painting for the period Gleizes is referring to. But he could also be referring to the grid of significantly proportioned rectangles that gives it the construction and which becomes the leading characteristic of Metzinger's painting for the next two years. If I am right in my earlier speculation that this is the period when Metzinger and Gris were studying with Princet we may think that Princet too was interested in the Sérusier/Lenz doctrine and that one of the effects of his teaching was to suggest that the Golden Section and root rectangles (which could easily be called 'the Greek rhythm') had their virtues. In this case, of course, the geometry is entirely Euclidean but Princet would have known that non-Euclidean geometry always stands in an intelligible relationship to the Euclidean postulates. And that the end of the exercise was not the elaboration of a geometry but to find in geometry elements, of whatever sort, that might be useful for the elaboration of painting. 

All of this would certainly come under Bergson's own strictures on reading Metzinger's "Cubism" and Tradition as quoted by Antliff: 'What is common today is that theory precedes creation ... For the arts I would prefer genius, and you?' (p.3). Which is an approach ('the painter who knows nothing, who runs towards a pretty subject with his beard blowing in the wind' (54)) that Gleizes and Metzinger both liked to ridicule.

54   Cubism was Born.

Antliff finds in A Note on Painting the Bergsonian word 'intuition'; but it is used to refer to Delaunay, and both Gleizes and Metzinger liked to treat Delaunay as the wild intuitive child of nature - an image Delaunay himself also liked to cultivate, despite his interest in scientific colour theory. I am not, however, denying that On "Cubism" - with its own idea of intuition, of the depth of our mental space, of the manner in which the external world can only be known as a function of the mind, of the possibility of taking account of time in the painted work - enters into a general discourse of the period in which Bergson played an important part. It would indeed be interesting to make a comparison between the overall development of Gleizes' thought and that of Bergson and many parallels would be found. They are often preoccupied with the same questions. But the fact that terms such as 'intuition' and 'durée' appear in their writings does not seem to me sufficient to characterise them as 'Bergsonian Cubists' or to treat them as participants in the debate over Bergson that was taking place in the right wing of politics, useful as these observations are in helping us to understand the intellectual atmosphere of the time. 

(c)  On Celtic Nationalism 

Much the same can, I think, be said about Antliff's observations on 'Celtic nationalism', which he sees as a - possibly the - fundamental motivating force in Gleizes's development. 

The argument is based on one sentence at the end of Gleizes' essay Cubism and Tradition: 'Nowadays, when our old Celtic origins are better understood, we must salute those who have preserved and passed on, more precious in every age, the legacy of our fathers, the 'master-builders' ["les maistres d'oeuvres"] and 'image-makers' [imagiers] of the Middle Ages.' That, I believe, is the only occasion on which Gleizes uses the word 'Celt' in his published writings, until a talk given in 1921 on the 'Rehabilitation of the Plastic Arts' (reproduced in Tradition and Cubism, 1927). Here Gleizes again describes France as having been originally Celtic; the Celts/Gauls are portrayed as having been especially receptive to Christianity - and hostile to Classicism. They were oppressed by the Romans and they welcomed the Franks as liberators (I record what he says. I don't say I agree with it). The combined Celts and Franks then enjoyed a high period of art and spirituality until the fourteenth century, when they again began to collapse back into a classical world view. Very shortly Gleizes would  definitively  - this would remain his position through the rest of his life - locate the collapse in the thirteenth century with the transition from 'Romanesque' to 'Gothic' - i.e. precisely the moment at which Cubism and Tradition sees the high point of French civilisation. 

These are, I believe the only references to his own specifically Celtic identity he ever published. There is, however, one other reference, in an unpublished letter to Robert Delaunay, talking about their respective ambitions to establish artists' communities, Gleizes in Moly Sabata in the Rhone Valley, Delaunay near Paris in Nesles-la-Vallée: 

'In fact it is very mediaeval and in the purest French tradition - that tradition that has its roots [s'enfonce] in the Celtic and which is distorted with the Renaissance ... You are like me and some others, painters who are essentially French or more accurately, to speak the truth, Celtic, and we renew with our origins. Lhote, for example, whose importance in our time I appreciate, seems to me nonetheless more and more to be the model [exemple type] of the confusion of a tradition that is lost through growing old, and of an intellectual formalism which people just won't renounce. The result is that he gives with talent the image of Italy in its decadence using geometrical systems to support a formal figure whose tendency these days is to vanish off the scene [ficher le camp]. Form, mobile act, how many can feel it today.' (Gleizes to Delaunay, February 1930) 

The first two sentences certainly provide strong support for Antliff's thesis but in over forty years (c1910 to 1953), including some thirty five years in which Gleizes is writing abundantly, that is more or less all there is. Enough to establish that it is something that popped into his mind from time to time, but certainly not enough to establish it as one of his fundamental motivating ideas. 

Otherwise Gleizes does mention Celtic culture as an example of the 'rhythmic' cultures he admired and which he saw in particular periods experienced by all the peoples of the world. This is indeed one of his most important fundamental motivating ideas (poor Lhote belonging to a cycle that is in decline), but it is something that is presented as universal, of the nature of Man with a capital 'M', not specific to any particular race. 

One thing that emerges from his 1921 support for the imaginary or real Franco-Celtic alliance is that he is most certainly not adopting the politics Antliff describes as being appropriate to Celtic Nationalism - support for a Celtic populace in revolt against a Frankish aristocracy. Nor - and this is a point I develop in my For and Against the Twentieth Century - could he ever be accused of being anti-German. 

What Antliff has spotted that is interesting is that there was at the time, around 1913, a small Celtic nationalist revival associated with a movement called the Celtic League, and that some of Gleizes' friends were associated with it; also that this Celtic League regarded the French Middle Ages, the age of the cathedrals - which certainly  were very important to Gleizes - as peculiarly Celtic. He also shows, but it is a largely unrelated point, that Gleizes' defence in Cubism and Tradition of a distinctively French realist tradition in opposition to the Italian style introduced under Francis I, followed a line of thought that was well established in left wing art criticism in the nineteenth century, a line that had found important expression in the major exhibition in 1904 of the French 'primitives' of the early Renaissance. 

Gleizes is certainly attaching himself to this tradition, and Antliff is also almost certainly right in thinking that the reference to 'our old Celtic origins' can be explained by his friends' involvement in the Celtic League. Perhaps the most important evidence for anything more substantial comes in the essay The Age of Drama, Attempt at a Modern Poetic Synthesis, by Gleizes' friend and colleague from the days of the Abbaye de Créteil, Henri Martin Barzun. The book is a useful guide to the whole movement issuing out of the Abbaye de Créteil of which Gleizes was a part and Gleizes is evoked as being in substantial agreement with it. It is largely a reflection on the relation between the individual and the collective, emphasising the collective. This would be one of the main themes of Gleizes unpublished book, written during the war, Art in the General Evolution. Gleizes would continue to collaborate with Barzun in the post war period, helping him to publish the two large volumes of his essay on the lessons to be learned from the war, Foundations of Europe

In what appears to be an appendix to the main essay, Barzun says: 

'France, with its glories, its epics, its peoples, its geniuses, its heroes - it is Amiens, it is Chartres, it is Reims, it is Notre Dame de Paris - it is not and it cannot be the Acropolis: let our art above all be that of our audacious gallo-Celtic race.' (p.95) 

But the main essay includes this: 

'One sole art dominating Europe and the world by the fusion of Saxon mysticism, Slav psychological sensibility, Latin intelligence and clarity in the genius of the French, the supreme organiser ... At present is it not the greatest spirits of Moscow, London, Paris, Berlin who effectively direct Europe and up to this day have prevented the crazed efforts to provoke war [les folles déchaînements belliqueux].' (p.30) 

So Barzun's - so far as I can see rather shortlived - Celtic Nationalism was accompanied by an enthusiasm for other possible racial characteristics, and an international pacifism which Gleizes - and nearly all his circle - unquestionably shared. The evidence for this latter is much greater than the evidence for the Celtic theme and indeed was already - prior to the publication of Inventing Bergson - well established in the existing literature. It is a main theme of Daniel Robbins' unfortunately unpublished but nonetheless widely read Formation and Maturity of Albert Gleizes. Inventing Bergson is a useful corrective to Robbins's rather one-sided representation of Gleizes as part of a distinctly left wing tradition but in my view it leans too far on the other side of the question. It may be that a synthesis of Antliff and Robbins would get the balance more or less right. 

But I confess that I myself do not have a clear or detailed idea of what Gleizes's pre-war political and social ideas might have been. The problem is both a lack of material and a too great abundance. The Gleizes archive really begins with the First World War which, assuming there is no material from the earlier period that has been lost, is when Gleizes begins to write seriously. So we have very little that concerns Gleizes personally. On the other hand, we have a huge amount of material about Gleizes' intellectual connections - basically all the manifold ramifications of the Abbaye de Créteil and the circle of Mercereau, Nayral and Figuière. No-one to my knowledge has yet gone through all this material in a methodical way. It would be an interesting thing to do but it would still amount only to a study of the circle which may not yield very much about Gleizes personally. 

What Antliff has established is that at the beginning of 1913 Gleizes may have had some sympathetic interest in a shortlived and ineffective movement that aimed to celebrate the Celtic/Gallic roots of French culture. Where I disagree with him strongly is when the word 'Celt' which, we have seen, rarely appears in Gleizes' own writings - begins to be attached to all the personages who appear in his paintings, together with various Bergsonian expressions which also do not appear very often in Gleizes' own writings. Harvest Threshing becomes 'a pictorial confirmation of Pelletier's praise of the collective spirit and durée of the Celtic peasant ...' (pp.129-30. Robert Pelletier was the founder and chief theorist of the group). 'Gleizes' and Pelletier's association of the Celtic élan with Gothic architecture was celebrated by Gleizes in his Chartres and a year later The City and the River' (pp.130-2); in Gleizes' Fishing Boats of 1913 we learn that 'The labourers portrayed were of Celtic stock, bound up with the creative evolution of the French race, their labour, attuned to nature's rhythms, is itself a product of the generative force of biological creation.' (p.174) And again, Town and River 'is said to exemplify the creative élan nascent in the biological rhythm of the Celtic race.' (ibid.) He misses the Celtic women sewing and the Celtic footballers. Presumably Delaunay's Cardiff Team were Celts, though Antliff, showing a proper disregard for national-racial character, calls them 'English' (p.97). 

Gleizes' peculiar 'reactionary' and racist turn of mind then gets passed on to the whole Puteaux group, apparently because Jacques Villon produced an etching based on Clouet's portrait of Francis I as an illustration to Cubism and Tradition. On the strength of this and the admiration that Raymond Duchamp-Villon expresses for Gothic architecture, we are told that 'by 1913, they [the Salon Cubists collectively and Fauves of the school of J.D.Fergusson] are united in their opinion that a racial character exists - a sure sign that the Bergsonianism propagated in these circles had taken a reactionary turn' (p.134). And: 'For the Puteaux Cubists, the purification and revival of the nation called for a return to its Celtic roots in the face of Cartesian and Germano-Latin cultural incursions.' This is immediately followed by a very stern warning against this kind of thinking because look what happened to the Aryans and the Jews ... 

Let us concede that Gleizes saw himself as a Frenchman and believed and wrote that there was such a thing as a French national character which had its roots in pre-Roman Celtic Gaul. These were commonplaces of the age just as a certain superficial anti-racism and global consciousness are commonplaces of our own age. The question is not: did Gleizes think what was thought by everyone - that national character was a real phenomenon - but what use did he make of this belief? Did he, for example, regard Italians in the way in which Hitler regarded Jews? Obviously not. Cubism and Tradition attacks the Italianate tradition within French art. Anyone with a taste for Orthodox culture in Eastern Europe and Russia will probably have similar feelings about the Italianate tradition in Slav art. But Gleizes was most certainly not preaching hatred of the Italians. We have it on record from Gino Severini that of all the Cubist group Gleizes was the most welcoming to the Italian Futurist 'invasion' of early 1912 - certainly more welcoming and more seriously interested than Picasso. (55) He is still, even in 1913, admiring the 'perfect' cycle that goes from Giotto to Raphael and later, when he comes to admire it somewhat less, he will often return to Cimabue as exemplifying the last moment of the old 'rhythmic' cycle he wishes to renew. And in the 1920s, when he first attempts explicitly religious themes, he begins with a work of analysing the Coronation of the Virgin by Fra Angelico.

55   Severini in Jean Cassou et al: Homage to Albert Gleizes, p.19: 'but Gleizes was the most generous and enthusiastic of them all.'


(d) The French tradition 

What, then, should be said about Cubism and Tradition? Certainly not that it was part of a 'spate of articles' which 'celebrated "our ancient Celtic origins" with a nationalistic enthusiasm that became more strident with each pronouncement', to quote David Cottington in Cubism in the Shadow of War (p.65). There were two articles which emphasised the French anti-Italian theme. Cubism and Tradition was the second; the first was the short response to the Inquiry on 'Cubisme devant les artistes' in the Annales politiques et littéraires in December 1912. Only one paragraph, albeit rather vehement ('the detestable Italian influence,') is given to the French/Italian theme in the Annales piece so really the 'spate' consists of Cubism and Tradition. The interest of this article lies not in the fact that it is nationalistic but in the nature of the qualities that are celebrated as being essentially French and essentially desirable for the future development of French art. And here one thing immediately springs to our attention in the context of the present discussion: they are not very Bergsonian. 

They are summed up in the Annales article as follows: 

'No-one should look for literature, moods, useless chatter in these canvasses any more than one will be stirred by the excitements [frissons] of the time, the season, the effects [jeux] of the sun, nor displays of knowledge in geography, anatomy etc. Drawing (which is not a synonym for reproduction), the study of the form by itself, the space it engenders, the weight of the bodies, architecture, invention, the colour that is appropriate to each inflection of the planes, those are the essentially plastic qualities which ought to be our concern and which we must develop tirelessly: in a word, what we are aiming at is a plastic wholeness [l'intégration plastique].' 

This is quite in line with his accounts of the typically French virtues which he gave a year previously in the essay on Metzinger and the review of the Salon d'Automne

'we are now going back, as Guillaume Apollinaire put it very rightly, ' to an art that would be simple and noble, expressive and measured, passionate about the search after Beauty, coming back to principles with regard to colour, composition, drawing and inspiration.' (Jean Metzinger) 

'Through the complete suppression of the brushstroke he [Metzinger] enters easily into our French tradition which has contributed only values of composition, the ordering of the picture, equilibrium established between the masses and the manner in which the forms are inscribed.' (Salon d'Automne, 1911) 

No celebration of the irrational, no élan, no intuition even if, in the articles taken as whole, there is more than a soupçon of durée. In Cubism and Tradition, Péladan's idea that Clouet's Portrait of Francis II should express 'that King's love for Marie Stuart' is dismissed as ridiculous; Philippe de Champagne is praised for 'austerity, truth and unity'. The Le Nain brothers are praised as realists but for Gleizes the whole point of their realism is the indifference to subject matter: 'with them, we begin to sense that the beauty of a painting does not at all lie in the choice of the subject, and that the most modest representations even of commonplace themes can provide the occasion for very fine paintings.' No suggestion that the Le Nain brothers are painting Celtic peasants reduced to misery by Frankish aristocrats. The eighteenth century is dismissed for 'pedantry and preciosity'; but Chardin 'shows himself to be scornful of the subject so much prized by his contemporaries, in whom it is gossip, style, the grace of a pithy anecdote, the attempt through an expression to render character, that seduce the spectator much more, even in Watteau, than they touch him simply through the quality that belongs properly to painting.' 

We might note in passing that a significant proportion of the painters admired by Gleizes had Flemish connections. They therefore seem to be more Germanic than Celtic. Also that neither now nor later does he have anything to say about the enthusiasm for Britanny that became so widespread in the wake of Gauguin and would, one would have thought, have been of interest to a modernist anxious to recover his Celtic roots, especially since he had before him, as a regular visitor to Britanny, the example of Le Fauconnier. 

It is these qualities that seem to me to be the theme of the article, not the articulation of a political commitment. But why should Gleizes think it important to stress this theme in 1912-13, immediately following the Section d'Or exhibition and the publication of On "Cubism"

Cottington suggests that On "Cubism" was really written by Metzinger, that none of Gleizes distinctive ideas - which for Cottington mean the nationalism - appear in it and that the spate of two articles in which Gleizes expresses an ever more strident nationalism is Gleizes affirming what Metzinger would not let him affirm in On "Cubism"

But Metzinger too is perfectly willing to define himself as French, to talk about distinctively French characteristics and to inscribe himself in a French tradition. The trouble is that Metzinger's idea of what it is to be French is different from that of Gleizes. Metzinger likes the eighteenth century, and he particularly admires François Boucher and Nicholas Lancret. Lancret is usually regarded as a follower of Watteau, a painter of  Fêtes gallantes characterised by charm, wit, and mild sexual titillation, the very qualities Gleizes is attacking in Cubism and Tradition. (56) 

In 1912, Metzinger embarked on a series of paintings which Antliff and Patricia Leighten, in Cubism and Culture, describe as 'fashionably dressed women such as Woman with Hat, and The Yellow Feather, complete with such feminine accoutrements as lipstick, lace, dyed feathers, decorative fans and primitivist fabrics.' (p.140) (57) As Leighten and Antliff remark, none of this was much calculated to appeal to Gleizes, who was at the same time working on the vast and 'majestic' Harvest Threshing. The difference has already been hinted at: Metzinger's A Note on Painting, for all the disapproval of Aphrodite, still sees defining feminine beauty as part of the artist's business. Gleizes' essay on Metzinger quotes him as thinking that by his methods 'the likeness can, to a quite considerable degree, be improved.' One feels that Gleizes himself has his doubts. But certainly Metzinger has the ambition to express delicate psychological traits of a kind that never interested Gleizes and which he really believed were not the painter's business.

56   The difference between them is well expressed in this extract from  Metzinger's letter of 26th July 1916: 'One thing worries me. What do you mean when you speak of "picturalisation" as an end in itself? I must have misunderstood. You are not ignorant of the fact that "picturalisation", and painting itself which is the result of it, are means of expression. That is to speak of the thousand nuances of religious sentiment which Giotto has painted; it is to indicate the charming paradoxes of a philosophy as light as it is profound painted by Boucher or Lancret. And Rembrandt, the most painter of them all, does he not express a whole world of ideas? If painting was an end, it would enter into the category of minor arts which pursue only pleasures that are entirely physical.'

57   It is tempting to think that these paintings may have been inspired by the café described in Inventing Bergson in the chapter on J.D.Fergusson, which was frequented by  milliners anxious to display their latest creations. Roger de la Fresnaye also did a well known painting of a woman in a spectacular hat and there is a brief discussion of Severini's interest in millinery in my introduction to From Cubism to Classicism.

The difference must have been quite startlingly evident at the Salon d'Automne and Section d'Or exhibitions of 1912, the very moment when the names of Gleizes and Metzinger were to be associated forever through the joint publication of On "Cubism". My suggestion is, then, that Cubism and Tradition may have been written for Metzinger's benefit - to tell him what the main lines of the French tradition of which he claims to be a part are, because he seems to be wandering off in what is, in Gleizes' eyes, a dangerously 'Italianate' direction.

          Next - On "Cubism" and other painters