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Albert Gleizes

'Le Cubisme devant les artistes', Les Annales politiques et littéraires, Paris, December 1912

Gleizes' comment comes at the end of fourteen hostile or mocking comments on Cubism written by artists, four of them members of the Institute, at the request of the journal.

With Jean Metzinger, in Du Cubisme, published by Eugène Figuière, we wanted to show the absolute logic of the present day pictorial movement. To the partial liberties won by Courbet, Manet, the Impressionists, Cézanne, even Matisse, Cubism substitutes a liberty that is indefinite: it is the natural continuation of the work of those liberators who bring us back to the true meaning of the French tradition and who opposed, violently, the detestable Italian influence, sad legacy of the sixteenth century Renaissance, that injury done to our national genius. The meaning of the Cubist paintings can best be understood by seeing and asking questions of our primitives and our cathedrals - they certainly belong to our race - not regarding them merely as picturesque and amusing curiosities, but as masterpieces in time. It is to them that we must go looking for lessons and advice, not to the Italian masters, who are not part of our patrimony and whose creative genius is inferior to theirs. It is well that a painter should know them, these Italians, as he may well know the artists of other races, but he should first and foremost be able to identify in his own culture the elements which belong to it and to develop them in this same spirit; it is a matter of intuition, of tact and of will.

A more subtle understanding of the object and of its evolution [son développement] in relation to the universe - that is what may seem to be surprising in the pictures of the new painters today. Since it forms part of a whole, the object could not, straightaway, assert itself as being a distinct episode - hence the error made by those observers who start out looking for the photographic images [clichés] they are used to instead of tasting the picture as an organism that is entirely independent and that finds in itself the reason for its existence. It is not, in any case, the painter's role to restore to things the banal appearance from which it is his mission to free them, and the setting down [l'inscription] of the form, which up until now has been limited by the mere sense of vision, is now enlarged with everything we are allowed to know about it through the intelligence.

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].

And finally the day will come when it is recognised that there never was a Cubist technique, simply the technique of picture making manifested with a great deal of courage and variety by a handful of painters.

As was the case for all the schools of art which are now said to be classics - with the same insults used in their time about them, the same epithets, with the same bad faith - these painters are now under attack. How could that surprise them? They know that understanding moves much more slowly than the creative faculties. It follows in their train, and the earliest among those who showed pictures that were called Cubist - a few years ago in the Indépendants (Room 41) about which there was no shortage of sarcastic remarks - are already surprised to see that many of those who deny the most recent works are already prepared to allow the works they produced then.

And later, when those who are just out to shock [les outranciers], the incompetent imitators among the new generations, have fallen by the way, the painters who remain will be sufficient to show how justified were the discoveries of the present day.