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Kubismus: Gleizes v Léger

There is a letter from Léger to Gleizes relating to Kubismus in which he says:

'My dear Gleizes. I have your letter. I think you're right about your article - The exhibition L'Art d'aujourd'hui has made it all clear. I can see only your influence and my own dominating the present situation. The Picasso, Braque, Gris "curve" has flattened out and doesn't move. It is on the decline. The world mural collective movement is predominant, there's no doubt about it. I am going in several days to send you the photos of [students?]. About three each ... I'll make you a choice of what concerns me and I will send them to you.'

In the event, however, this rapprochement between Gleizes and Léger was shortlived. Leger's commercial success was to take him out of the hands of Léonce Rosenberg into those of his much more commercially minded brother Paul Rosenberg, who already controlled Picasso and Braque. And whether or not Paul Rosenberg was responsible, Léger moved towards a much more figurative style, with much less emphasis on a purely pictorial construction. As the movement towards non-representational art developed Léger distanced himself from it. This painting is an example of his work in 1929.

He would not have been pleased by Gleizes's book if he read it. Although Gleizes took Léger and his pupils as examples of the third, 'flat', phase of Cubism, he was critical of what they had  done with it. For Gleizes the emphasis on the flatness of the picture plane was a preparation for something else, the movement of 'rotation', the eye put in movement round the picture plane. Léger's painting, and the characteristic he passed on to his pupils, was entirely static, confined to what Gleizes called 'translation', the organisation of essentially vertical and horizontal forms. Thus he says of this painting of Léger:

'The surface is put into movement and divided into sections, and this corresponds to one essential aspect of its nature - that of translation.  But its capacity to enter into rotation is not taken into account.'

and of Léger's pupil Marcelle Cahn:

'The importance of the surface is recognised and the idea of volume is dissolved.  The contrast with the descriptive approach is affirmed through a hint of modeling.  The surface is confined to the movement of translation.'

By contrast he says of this painting from 1921 by Juan Gris:

'Here he shows, with a rare clarity, all the dynamic possibilities contained in the surface and expressed in movements of translation and rotation. And, not just for the eye, but also for the spirit, he conveys the idea of the circular form which is governed by time.'

and of a painting from 1917 by Jean Metzinger:

'With a new state of mind, a new order begins to appear.  The surface assumes its own life, a life which corresponds to its own nature.   The form which is based on time appears - circular, closed, originating from translation - the plastic resolution of their geometrical, non-figurative use of perspective - and from rotation - the plastic resolution of the principles of compositional construction.  In its successive phases as they are experienced through the senses, it is held together by a rhythm, which is, in its own nature, spiritual.'

Of his own pupils he says - the example given here is by Evie Hone:

'an architectonic plastic organisation, approaching the possibility of great mural painting.  Even if it is still limited to the framework of an individual expression, it is certainly full of the promise of being able to grow into a work of monumental stature.  A field full of flowers is only a plurality of individual flowers, each of them, equally, embodying the same principles of construction; a tree is not a magnified leaf.  So, monumental painting is not just one element magnified beyond all measure, but a multiplication of elements which are able to relate one to the other in a way that is natural.  Here we can see the movement of the surface both in translation and rotation.'

The comment that 'monumental painting is not just one element magnified beyond all measure ... a tree is not a magnified leaf ...' may be a response to developments in Léger's work. This is a painting of Léger's dated 1928, the year Kubismus was published.