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One could say it was at the Closerie (6) that, several months later, was worked out between us and several of our poet friends - Guillaume Apollinaire, André Salmon, Roger Allard - the plan of action for introducing a small alteration into the way in which the hanging in the Indépendants was organised which would, without our intending it, turn into a revolution.

6)   The Closerie des Lilas in Montparnasse, a meeting place for poets, especially those associated with Paul Fort's journal Vers et prose.

Metzinger, Le Fauconnier, Delaunay, Léger and myself had decided to contribute to the next Salon des Indépendants. But how would we be hung? Most likely we would be scattered to the four corners of the salon and the effect produced on the public by a coherent movement would be lost. That could not be allowed to happen. We had to be shown as a group, everyone agreed. To achieve this, we needed to get into a position of influence. That was difficult. The committee was made up of old masters such as Signac, Luce and [.....] who could not be moved because they had been present when the Society of Independents had been founded, and younger artists such as Lebasque, Deltombe, who felt at home there and had no reason to want to change their way of doing things. They would never agree with our view of the matter which, moreover, they would never understand. The Committee would be happy, as it was every year, to have a list of people responsible for the hanging published which, like every year, would be passed more or less unanimously by the General Assembly. That is what we did not want. So we decided on a forceful 'last minute thrust' ['manoeuvre de dernière heure'] that might succeed in battering its way through the Committee's routine.

We had our own personal interest in this idea of showing as a group but the principle of grouping by tendencies could only be for the good of all the young painters and restore to the salon that combative atmosphere it had had in its beginnings. The scattering and disorder of previous years, in spite of one or two rare well-organised rooms, had turned it into a sort of meaningless flea market. We needed, then, to excite widespread support at the Assembly of members of the society which met to elect the hanging commission for the exhibition of 1911.

We had a list of candidates printed which indeed included ourselves but which had been put together carefully and with fairness. The list included André Lhote, de Segonzac, La Fresnaye, Berthold Mahn, Jean Marchand and other painters who, whether we knew them personally or not, seemed to be able to represent, if not a tendency, at least something of value. Then we thought that some posters displayed during the meeting and showing clearly our demands, with the names of the candidates we proposed, could make a big impact. The wording of these posters was decided in agreement with our literary friends: 'Young painters, you have been betrayed. Article 13 has been broken [dénoncé]. Vote for the hanging committee with the following names and the salon will be organised in your interests.' We painted 5 or 6 posters on big sheets of paper.

On the evening of the meeting, in a huge room on the Bld Raspail, in front of a numerous public, the commission gave its report and the President announced that the vote for the next hanging committee was about to begin. The committee proposed a list, but the nature of the voting papers handed out at the door had put the same committee on the alert. They felt the storm that was approaching and tried to avert it. I can still see Lebasque striding about the platform like a fine devil. The stormy atmosphere reached its climax when the posters were displayed. They had a big effect on many of the members and the opposition had to accept an election with the new lists. They gave up even before the inevitable end which they felt was coming. The voters didn't hesitate to make the most of the situation, as the officers in charge of the urns had lost all control. Never was plural voting held in greater esteem. People voted, went away, came back and voted again. Packets of votes were thrown into the urns. The organisers didn't try to stop anything. When the operation was over, the counting began. Anyone could be designated to do the job. We were chosen and hardly had we started to run through the votes than the bureau, led by Signac, left and went to bed. We stayed there until two o'clock in the morning, we were exhausted, but the battle had been won. Our list had triumphed with a majority which - was far greater than the number of the voters. Metzinger, as Maximilien Luce was to remind him at the General Assembly the following year, was chosen by five hundred votes out of three hundred and fifty voters. 

And all the candidates on  our list passed with majorities of that sort. And no-one complained. The Committee took it in a good spirit and did not hold it against us. To the extent that when the Hanging Commission met again, Le Fauconnier was unanimously elected as chairman.

So we could get down to business. We divided the exhibitors in two, those who were headed by Signac and Luce, the other made up of artists of the new generation. On one side of the central room  the rooms would be given to the older members; on the other, the young painters organised the rooms that had been given to them. For our part, we took Room 41. In the following rooms, André Lhote, Segonzac, La Fresnaye etc would take their place. It was at this moment that we got to know each other.

In the Room 41 we were grouped together - Le Fauconnier, Léger, Delaunay, Metzinger and myself, joined, at the insistence of Guillaume Apollinaire, who was following this organisation with the greatest interest, by Marie Laurencin ...

Le Fauconnier showed his great 'Abundance'. Léger his nudes in a landscape in which volumes were treated following the method of differently shaded areas [zones dégradées] used in architecture or in mechanical models. Delaunay 'the Eiffel Tower' and 'The Town'. Metzinger [.....] (7), Marie Laurencin some canvasses with people in them. Myself - two landscapes and two canvasses with people: 'Woman with Phlox Plant' and 'Naked man getting out of a bath'. (8)

(7)   Landscape, Nude, Woman's Head and Still Life, according to Robbins

(8)   This work has been lost and does not appear in the Catalogue Raisonnée. A photograph, however, has been found in the archive of Alexandre Mercereau and is reproduced in Fabre: Albert Gleizes et l'Abbaye de Créteil, p.140.

That, very precisely, was how Room 41 in the 1911 Indépendants was made up. In the neighbouring room were to be found, if my memory is right, Lhote, Segonzac, Moreau,


During the few days it took for the hanging commission to do its work, there was nothing that could have enabled us to foresee the effect our pictures were about to produce on the public at large. The painters and critics who walked around the canvasses were clearly very interested, whether they were for or against. But no-one could have thought there was material there for a scandal. And we the first, who certainly never would have wanted it. At that time people still practised a certain discretion about their was of presenting themselves to the world, and the fact of showing paintings that had been conceived in a spirit a little different from that of those who surrounded us did not imply any intention to stir up the crowd So we were greatly surprised when, at the preview, the explosion took place.

I arrived at the Cours-la-Reine at around four o'clock in the afternoon - the exhibition had opened at two o'clock. It was a wonderful Parisian spring day, sunny and warm. I went through the first set of rooms, where relatively few people were gathered. But the further I advanced, the thicker the crowds grew and eventually I met my friends who had arrived earlier than I had done and they told me what was going on. Everyone was crushed into our room, people were shouting or laughing, expressing indignation, protesting, getting up to all sorts of antics, they were pushing each other out of the way to get in, those who approved and defended our position and those who condemned it argued with each other. We couldn't make anything out of it at all. The whole afternoon it went on. Room 41 was always full. We installed ourselves in the exhibition café and quietly waited to see how things would turn out. The Intransigeant appeared at 5 o'clock with the account by Guillaume Apollinaire. He emphasised the importance of what we were doing and defended us with passion, In the papers which appeared in the morning, the more timorous elements such as Louis Vauxcelles in Gil Blas attacked us with a violence that was quite extraordinary; younger critics who kept the art columns in Comoedia, Excelsior, Action, L'Oeuvre etc were more reserved, some of them even welcomed us with sympathy; in Paris-Journal, André Salmon, as a poet and free spirit, wrote an account of us that was full of intelligence and sympathy. We were, to sum up, violently torn to pieces by the old guard of the critics while the young criticism, that of our own generation, was in principle won over. And that was the most important thing.

It was from that preview in 1911 that the name 'Cubism' can be dated. People have tried to give it a godfather and to say that it goes back two or three years earlier but these attempts seem to me to be vain simply because during those years neither Braque nor Picasso were ever called Cubists. What, by contrast, can be established is that from 1911 onwards the term became commonplace and, initially confined as it was to the painters of Room 41, it was afterwards attributed to those who seemed, nearly or at a distance, to approach them, in appearance if not in spirit. Apollinaire himself was initially reticent about this label and it was not until later, after this opening at the Indépendants, during an exhibition which we held at Brussels, that he accepted definitively on his own and our behalf, the name 'Cubist' by which all sorts of people had designated us in irony. In 1911 the word Cubism was born in the same way as the word 'Impressionism' in 1872. The painters had nothing to do with it! Alas! it would not always be so, and the 'isms' would soon multiply through the deliberate intentions of artists more concerned with drawing attention to themselves than with realising works worthy of being taken seriously.

Overnight we had become famous. Unknown, or more or less unknown, the previous evening, our names were spread by many-mouthed fame, not only throughout Paris but to the regions and to foreign lands as well. And not only our names but also our profiles. Satisfying the general curiosity about us became one of the tasks assigned to the information press. Painting which, until then, had been the concern of only a small handful of amateurs, passed into the public domain and everyone wanted to be informed, to be let into the secret of those paintings which, it seemed, represented nothing, and whose meaning had to be deciphered like a puzzle. For - and this is the truth of the matter - most of those who looked at these paintings could not find what they were accustomed to see the moment they looked at any picture: the anecdotal subject. As strange as it might seem when one recalls these canvasses whose subjects are perfectly easily discernible, some of our friends, doubtless little orientated towards plastic values, claimed they could see nothing. Behind assertions of this kind there were undoubtedly plenty of preconceived ideas; some weeks after this memorable day, the Doyens and Georges Duhamel came to see me in my studio in Courbevoie. "Where are the canvasses you showed at the Indépendants?" they asked. 'Why, here they are."  "No, it isn't possible, we can see the subjects in these ones perfectly well but nothing could be seen in those in the Salon."  "All the same, these were certainly the pictures. So you can see yourself that it doesn't take much effort to see these paintings' figurative support; it just takes a little getting used to. But as this support is here only as an accessory it is hidden under other values that are more specifically important." That is what Georges Duhamel - who demands of a painting nothing more than that it should move his sensibility through a new way of presenting a subject - never wanted to admit; that is what makes him uncompromising and often aggressive towards us.

The subject - whether treated sentimentally or adapted to the formula of a gimmick that might be more or less amusing - the originality of a Henner, a Ziem, a Didier-Pouget, even of a Wlaminck - was subordinated to true, essential qualities that correspond to the plastic demands of painting; that certainly was the basis for the state of mind of this first stage in a radical change in the position of the painter, the stage that has, legitimately, the right to the name 'Cubism'. This stage in fact remains respectful of the classical 'three dimensions', emphasising 'volume'. Consequently, it remains within the framework of 'perspective', which suggests on a flat surface an illusion of depth. These are the values which we wanted forcefully to express and to place above those purely emotional concerns with which the mentality of painters of that time was satisfied, leading to a real atrophying of the form which other times had, by contrast, been able to develop and to exalt.

Since that time, many painters have been attached to Cubism by writers, and many painters have attached themselves of their own accord. They had known those of Room 41, and that seemed sufficient proof of the validity of their claim. But it is still historically true that in 1912 [sic (9)] the only authentic Cubists were Jean Metzinger, Le Fauconnier, Léger, Delaunay and myself. With regard to our aspirations and our works at that time we did not compromise, we made no concessions. No-one in our own circle was under any illusions. There were the Cubists, and there were painters who were friends of the Cubists who would be influenced by them almost immediately in an external manner without ever joining them in their internal discipline. I will come back to these very important points in the course of the events which followed. But anyone who needs convincing of this only needs to turn to what was being written from that time on by irreproachable witnesses such as, not just Guillaume Apollinaire and André Salmon, but all the critics and journalists in the newspapers and reviews of 1912.

(9)   By 1912 they had been joined by Juan Gris whom Gleizes certainly recognised as a 'Cubist'.