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Henri Le Fauconnier: Le Chasseur, 1911-12
Oil on canvas, 2013 x 166.5 cm
Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague

In his preface to the 1947 edition of On "Cubism", Gleizes regrets that Le Fauconnier and Delaunay were not included in the illustrations. He insists, however, that this was not the fault of himself or of Metzinger: 

'As for Le Fauconnier and Delaunay, certain disagreements which had nothing to do with painting had separated them briefly from us. In a moment of ill feeling they refused us the privilege of reproducing their work. What could we do? Today we give them the place which they could have had in 1912.' 

In the case of Le Fauconnier, we still do not have a clear idea of what the disagreements were. Robbins speculates - and the speculation seems to me quite credible - that he did not want to be associated with a 'movement' that included Picasso and Braque: 'More likely [than Gleizes' explanation of a purely personal motive] Le Fauconnier resented the inclusion of reproductions by Picasso, Derain and Braque in an order following Cézanne implying a sort of chronology. If that was the price Gleizes and Metzinger had to pay for having a movement, it was too high.' (65)

65   Robbins: Le Fauconnier and Cubism.

Robbins goes on to discuss an essay by Le Fauconnier published as the preface to an exhibition held 'in the first days of October 1912, just after the opening of the Autumn Salon in Paris and before the Salon of the Section d'Or. Le Fauconnier's letters to Conrad Kickert make it clear that he was anxious to get his theoretical position in print before the waters got muddied, before a large group of painters, most of whom he must have regarded as Johnny-come-latelies, became identified with means and ends that he considered his own.' 

It would be difficult from the essay in question - Modern Sensibility - to deduce what his disagreements might have been with the authors of On "Cubism". (66) It is not a personal statement. Like Gleizes and Metzinger he claims to be speaking for new painters in general. Also like Gleizes and Metzinger - especially Gleizes - he is anxious to situate the new painting in a historical context. It evolves logically from what went before it but, like the earlier painting, it belongs to its own age (a point that needed to be stressed given the ambition of certain painters - Sérusier, Emile Bernard - to find the solution to present day problems in the past). Unlike Gleizes he emphasises the Italian past but he still praises the 'very French genius' of Cézanne which 'incited him to put in order, to condense, to give greater scope [donner plus d'ampleur] to this modern feeling [émotivité] which was still confused in his contemporaries.'

66   Hopefully the text will be included in the present anthology.

He stresses the changing technologies of the age as creating the atmosphere in which the painters' sensibility is formed. This is a theme that is notably absent from On "Cubism", though Gleizes would develop it later on. But he says - quite in accordance with Gleizes and Metzinger: 'he [the painter] is not content with translating directly the representation of modern life; he searches to give its plastic equivalent. Still, this representation of modern movement does not require the fixed idea [idée fixe] of the automobile with fifteen wheels, and the dissonances of the street (violences of the poster and advertising hoarding) do not oblige the painter to use exclusively their tonalities.' 

On the contrary: 'his mind registers forms, lines, colours, a new rhythm. He draws from it elements of a new beauty to create a language with which he expresses himself, often even on something quite different from the streets, factories, machinery ...' 

This is quite in accord with On "Cubism" which reminds its readers that 'plastic dynamism' is something quite different from 'the noise of the streets'. It is anti-Futurist, but it is also perhaps not much calculated to please either Léger or Delaunay, both of whom did quite favour modern subjects and - Léger especially - the tonalities of advertising hoardings. (67)

67   Léger it should be said was on good terms with Le Fauconnier and took his studio over when Le Fauconnier left Paris. 

It is in his discussion of colour that Le Fauconnier comes closest to On "Cubism", insisting on the right to use dark colours and half tones in opposition to the perpetual broad daylight of the Impressionists. Unlike On "Cubism" he sees this as a development of chiaroscuro, which 'multiplied the plastic accidents of shadow and light. Modern complexity cannot neglect this mode of expression which the orientals and primitives of all times did not know and which was illustrated with genius [génialement] by Rembrandt.' But, he argues, by diminishing 'the ocular ramp' (the perspective cone), which imposes a certain regularity on the organisation of the painting, the artist is allowed 'a play of shadow and light that is freer, and better serves the mobility and variety of these ideas.' We may be reminded of the 'thousand surprises of fire and shadow' of On "Cubism"

And, Le Fauconnier argues, with On "Cubism" but again especially with Gleizes, that 'more than ever the subject is for the painter only a "pretext for painting". Excessive preoccupation with the subject is only ever met in mannered or decadent schools.' Though he goes on, more vigorously than On "Cubism", to attack the notion of an outright non-representational art: 'Another kind of mannerism would be its total suppression, for the simple game of volumes or patches of colour [tâches colorés].' 

He finishes with an attack on 'theory' which might hint at a possible reason for his dissatisfaction with the Cubists but overall we are left thinking that it is the term 'Cubism' itself that distresses him and possibly the fear that the ideas associated with it are too narrow. His essay is at a very high level of generalisation and makes hardly any reference to the notions particularly associated with Cubism such as non-Euclidean geometry (which is, as we have seen, only touched on very lightly in On "Cubism"). Even the reference to perspective does no more than suggest that its importance is diminishing. What he has written is quite consistent with his own later, more figurative style.